A trio of high achievers will receive honorary academic awards from the University of Sunderland in recognition of their outstanding contribution to their chosen field.
England’s World Cup-winning rugby union captain Katy Mclean, and Team GB’s head coach for the Paratriathlon team Jonathon Riall, both Sunderland graduates, are being recognised at the University’s annual awards ceremonies.
They’ll receive the honour at a ceremony at the Stadium of Light on Thursday alongside Professor Peter Fidler CBE, Vice-Chancellor of Sunderland University from 1999, who then became its President in 2014.
Katy Mclean MBE will be awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University, in recognition of her achievements and her services to rugby and women’s sport.
Katy, England Rugby’s fly half and captain of five years, led her team to World Cup victory in Canada in 2014. She became the first woman to play rugby for England professionally and has 76 caps for the national team.
The former Bexhill Academy teacher now has her sights set on Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The sports star, from South Shields, said: “Rugby was a massive family passion, and winning the World Cup was something that I dreamt about when I was little.
“To captain England to a World Cup, to finally achieve that last year was very special. That was easily my proudest moment, we worked so hard for it and so many things had happened, it was a massive relief if anything but also I felt very proud of everything we had achieved as a team as well.
“It’s a massive honour for me to receive this award from the University of Sunderland. I had a brilliant time at Sunderland, I made a completely new set of friends and the support from the University academically was really helpful.”
Jonathon Riall will be awarded Alumni Achiever of the Year. In less than a decade of graduating with a Sports and Exercise Development degree from Sunderland, Jonathon Riall has risen to the top of his profession after being named Team GB’s head coach for its first ever Paratriathlon team to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
One of the academics who nominated Jonathan for Alumi Achiever of the Year was Dr Ian Whyte, Principal Lecturer in the Department of Sports and Exercise Sciences.
He said: “Jonathon has been a superb ambassador for the University and, as a local man, the area in which he was brought up. His work with British triathlon has not only seen necessary developments of that sport but in particular has led to fundamental changes in the way people with disabilities can now access triathlon through the Para-tri movement.”
Professor Peter Fidler CBE will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education (HonDEd) from Paul Callaghan CBE, Chair of the University’s Board of Governors.
Paul Callaghan said: “It was Peter’s ambition that the university be recognised as ‘one of a new generation of great civic universities’ and under Peter’s leadership Sunderland has ‘re-engineered’ its campuses, academic structure and global reach to achieve that vision. Although Peter will retire in December 2015, thanks to his ambition and commitment his legacy will undoubtedly remain for many years to come.”