1980s Alumni profiles

Professor Ayad Lemhouer, M.Ed Education, 1980

In 1978, Professor Ayad Lemhouer had completed a post graduate diploma in linguistics and language teaching at the University of Edinburgh. He wanted to pursue studies in educational evaluation. He felt Leicester had a good department for Educational Assessment and Evaluation which he joined.

He founded an association to fight school dropout and improve schooling conditions in rural areas in Morocco. His ambitions were related more to helping others, namely keeping kids at school. School drop-out is frequent in Morocco especially in rural areas, and his association was very active using various means and approaches to convince kids to remain at school and parents to let their children go as far as possible in their studies.

Professor Ayad Lemhouer advises alumni who are looking to go into the same profession as him. ''Study ... Study ... Study and get as much experience as you can. It is important to be yourself and show respect for what you do and for what others do. Learn to accept differences and make yourself happy first, before trying to make others happy. Finally if you don't enjoy what you do, change it.''

University of Leicester course was rich enough to help Professor Ayad Lemhouer explore various aspects of education. Every experience had an impact on personal and professional development. He tells us that attending the University of Leicester had undoubtedly had an important impact.

Professor Ayad Lemhouer loved the great faculty members at the Leicester School of Education.

Martin Radvan, Mechanical Engineering BEng, 1981

What is your current or most recent job title?  

Chairman Weatherbys.

Please tell us a brief summary of your career to date since graduation

I am currently Chairman of Weatherbys, a UK conglomerate involved in a wide range of activities, largely within horse racing and banking. I am additionally a mentor with Mentore and Executive Coaching Connections and a Global Advisor for the Economics of Mutuality (EoM) Foundation having spent many years piloting and running programs using the methodology to ‘do good through doing business.’

Previously, I was an NED of Chipita SA, a fast-growth branded international food company headquartered in Athens, Greece, until their sale to Mondelez in January 2022.

I retired in 2019 as Deputy Group CEO (Executive Vice President) of Mars, Inc and President and CEO of Mars Wrigley Confectionery, responsible for an $18bn P&L encompassing all the Mars chocolate, confectionery and chewing gum brands and representing some 50% of total Mars turnover.

A Brit by nationality, I have a successful track record of leading businesses, integrating major acquisitions and driving business turnarounds, working across multiple categories and demonstrating success in emerging and established markets. I have lived and worked in Europe (the UK and France), the Middle East and the US and have significant experience of operating in India, China and Africa.

During my career with Mars, I represented Mars in a wide range of functional roles in general management, sales, IT, finance and supply chain across all disciplines, including as Chief Information Officer and running the Wm Wrigley Co and the Drinks segment of Mars.

What were the biggest challenges you have faced within your education and career history? What advice would you give to anyone in a similar position?

Knowing what I wanted to do? I would advise anyone that a degree such as Engineering is great for a general education and doesn't specialise you too early.

From a career perspective my biggest advantage was the willingness to live and work in different places.

What were your motivations for enrolling on a course at the University of Leicester?

I wanted to be an Engineer, but Leicester was actually a result of the clearing process.

How did your course and your experience in Leicester aid your personal and professional development? 

Firstly I met friends for life - who I'm still in touch with. My degree allowed me a start in industry.

Keith Cooper, BSc Combined Sciences, 1983

Following a research career at the HUSAT Research Institute in Loughborough, looking at new technology and organisational change, and after several years of running his own management consultancy, Keith Cooper set up his own photography business in 2004.

Keith is a specialist architectural and industrial photographer, covering traditional interior and exterior work, as well as ultra-high resolution survey photography. In a career that involves lots of technical work, an engineering and scientific degree mixes well with the creative side of photography and telling a story. With a good reputation within his field, Keith was approached by major manufacturers Canon and Epson to test new fine art printers and photographic equipment, which is has now been doing for the past few years.

With a passion for travelling the world taking photos, Keith is hoping that his career will take him over the world taking part in large architectural and industrial projects. Although Keith graduated with a degree in Combined Sciences he gives advice for anyone looking to enter into a different career path to what they have studied.

‘Keep your options open and believe that you can change your mind about your chosen path. The University of Leicester gave me the confidence to choose my own path and it can do for you too’.

Keith's social media platforms:

Claire Gillingwater, BA Combined Studies, 1983

Claire Gillingwater has had a successful career as a management coach working with senior business executives across the UK, Europe, Middle and Far East. She helps them prepare for interviews with the media and deliver major presentations to their shareholders, financial institutions and internal audiences.

Claire was a journalist for 14 years and in 1997 decided to cross over the fence and become a media trainer instead. Her role, in terms of communications coaching, has grown into owning her own business working with associates who offer the same services.

In Claire's first term she chose to learn Italian and by the end of her first year was working and travelling around Italy for nearly three months. Aside from a love of Italian food, it also gave her tremendous confidence and a lifelong desire to travel more.

Claire explains how journalism has always been immensely competitive so in respect of that career she would advise any graduates to demonstrate commitment to it. ''I worked on Ripple, the Leicester Stage, Centre Radio and the occasional Saturday’s work experience stint on the Leicester Mercury while at University and still it took me nearly a year of doing work experience around the country on various local newspapers before I got my traineeship with United News on the Sheffield Star.''

''So, be true to yourself and if at first you don’t succeed, do try again. In respect of setting up my own business in 2005, I remember a friend saying: “Go for it Claire.” It was a leap of faith, but I have never looked back.''

Whilst studying at University of Leicester Claire loved Vicky Park, enjoying snakebites in Digby bar, the Clarendon pub, getting work on Centre Radio, learning Italian and being stage manager for Dr Peter Fawcett’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Claire has a lasting image that returns whenever she thinks or hears about Leicester and that is the autumn sunshine and colours of Victoria Park as she attended a reception in the Charles Wilson building in her first term.

Pamela Brooks, English BA .1987

What is your current or most recent job title?

Self-employed author.

Please tell us a brief summary of your career to date since graduation

After a stint as a trainee accountant (loved the job, hated the culture) I worked in insurance marketing for ten years; and then, after maternity leave, became a freelance health journalist. A couple of years later, I started writing for Mills & Boon, and have just published my 100th novel with them (5 million words, 100 happy endings, translated into more than 20 different languages, 3 national awards from the Romantic Novelists' Association).

What were the biggest challenges you have faced within your education and career history? What advice would you give to anyone in a similar position?

Back in the late 1980s, it was relatively easy to switch career. I'd say don't be afraid to take risks or move sideways to follow your dreams - a career is about more than just money. Publishing's going through a lot of changes at the moment; there are huge opportunities with digital-first publishers, whose editors are more likely to take a risk on an unknown. Traditional publishers are facing challenges in distribution, following the demise of the Net Book Agreement and the fact that supermarkets are cutting back on shelf space for books; if you want to submit a book to them, the opportunities are greatest in commercial fiction. And it's definitely worth brushing up your skillset to self-publish the book of your heart (though I'd always, always advise getting a professional editor - authors often see what they meant to write rather than what they actually wrote! - and a professional cover designer, to help your book stand out).

What were your motivations for enrolling on a course at the University of Leicester?

Leicester had one of the few departments that offered options to study Old English. (There were only four of us in my third year, and I have very fond memories!)

How did your course and your experience in Leicester aid your personal and professional development?

The tutors taught us to question things and be very aware of our language - that's stood me in good stead. Working as a sub-editor on Ripple gave me the experience and confidence I needed to work as a freelance editor; and the friends I made are still friends more than three decades on.

What would you tell your younger self if they were just starting out at the University of Leicester?

This is your chance to find out who you are and where you fit into the world. Read outside your subject, go to the theatre as much as you can (!), and most of all enjoy your time.

Matthew Gallagher, BA Philosophy, 1989

Matthew Gallagher graduated from the University in 1989 with a BA in Philosophy and has recently completed an around the world record flight in a Robinson R66 helicopter.

Matthew and fellow pilot Peter Wilson are the first people to fly around the world through the equatorial antipodes (Palembang, Indonesia and Neiva, Colombia) in a R66 helicopter.

The journey started and ended at Booker Airfield in Wycombe. They landed in 42 countries, five continents, and on an iceberg. The whole journey took the pair 121 days.

The trip was in aid of two charities (Save the Children and Motivation) and to help raise awareness for a better planet through sustainable development. During the journey, they visited a number of charitable organisations, outward-bound and research centres.

“These visits, and the trip as a whole, proved extremely thought provoking and insightful,” explained Matthew.

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