The Lifetime Achievement Award honours an alumnus who has made an outstanding contribution to society over an extended period of time and who is highly regarded in their chosen career field. This award was presented to Dr S Chelvan (BSc Politics and Law, 1998) for tireless work in the field of human rights law and exceptional professional attainment at the very highest level.
Chelvan practices as an immigration and asylum barrister, attracting national and international acclaim. He is well known for his prominent and policy-oriented advocacy for minority and, particularly, LGBTQ+ rights. He is considered the leading legal expert in the UK on LGBTQ+ asylum law.
After graduating from Southampton with a first-class degree in Politics and Law, Chelvan progressed to Bar school on a Major scholarship, awarded by the Inner Temple. He was called to the Bar in October 1999, and commenced pupillage at Doughty Street, and then Two Garden Court Chambers. After nine months into pupillage, Chelvan was granted permission to spend an academic sabbatical year as firstly a Visiting Research Fellow at Northwestern University in Chicago, as a Summer 2000 award recipient at the Centre for International Human Rights. Chelvan then completed an Masters in Law, specialising in International Human Rights Law and the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movement at Harvard Law School, as a Kennedy Memorial Trust Scholar. He returned to the UK in August 2001 to complete his pupillage, and fully qualified as a Barrister in November 2001, and was subsequently based at Mitre House Chambers, Number 5 Chambers (London), and since November 2020 at 33 Bedford Row Chambers, where he serves as Head of Immigration and Public Law. Chelvan was awarded a PhD in Law from King’s College London in 2019, researching and drafting his thesis whilst at the Bar. As of September 1st, Chelvan also serves as a Visiting Adjunct Professor at the Research Centre for International Law and Globalisation at the University of Southampton, based at the Law School.
“For me as a barrister I went to the Bar to empower myself, it was purely selfish because as a queer person, a first-generation immigrant, a person of colour, living with a disability, it’s about by empowering those who are marginalised, you empower yourself. .
As Armistead Maupin says, we have two types of family; a biological family, and a logical ‘chosen’ family. When I came out whilst I was at Southampton, I was estranged from my family: they kicked me out of home for being gay and so the friends I made at Southampton became my logical family.
I’m living my dream, as a Southampton graduate. What I always say at any talk I give to students is that if I can live my dream, then so can you. That’s what I’m so passionate about. Hold your head up high and listen to your heart.
What I love about being an advocate, is to be the mouthpiece for people who know the words but have no voice. The greatest pleasure of my work is when I empower Queer Refugees to win their cases and get refugee status, and be safe and live openly, in the UK. One of my most passionate, empowered clients, Aderonke Apata, will be called to the Bar this October: a Nigerian, lesbian activist who has spent 13 years going through the Home Office system to get asylum. In August 2017, when the Home Office conceded her appeal and granted her asylum, she turned to me and said “thank you for giving me my freedom” and that’s the power we all have – to be able to change lives, and save lives.”
Chelvan tweets from @S_Chelvan
“This is me a few minutes after finding out my grade result (first-class honours degree and top of my year of seventy graduates that year in Politics) hugging Professor Caroline Thomas who was my personal tutor in Politics.”
The Rising Star Award is presented to an alumnus who graduated from Southampton no more than five years ago, and who has made an outstanding contribution in their field or to society. This award was presented to Dr Kizanne James-McCarthy for her pioneering work in the field of women’s health, developing interventions, and providing advocacy for women.
Dr Kizanne James-McCarthy (MSc Leadership and Management in Health and Social Care, 2018) is a multi-award-winning leader, Chevening Scholar, women’s rights and health activist and physician with a passion for global health. She has been promoting family planning since she was at medical school through activities including voluntary talks on sexual health at institutions including prisons and developing a phone app and website giving information about contraception.
“After leaving university I was recruited and hired on the spot by a global NGO based in London. There I was part of an advocacy team across different countries to advocate for women’s reproductive health and rights. I was in charge of several regions: Latin America, Caribbean and Asia, and that was just amazing, doing that job. Afterwards I took on a different project in my own country, Trinidad and Tobago, where I instituted manual vacuum aspiration in the public health system.
In Trinidad and Tobago, when women have miscarriages, a medical procedure called dilation and curettage is performed. Dilation and curettage is more expensive and has more complications than manual vacuum aspiration, but in the public health system, there wasn’t any alternative. So I got funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and from Johns Hopkins University to create an alternative option.
If I didn’t have the backing and the education I had here at Southampton in health leadership, it would have been very difficult to make a successful intervention. Now that procedure is available to women in Trinidad.
At present, I live in Scotland and I work for the NHS there. I’m in the NHS management training program and I work as a strategic manager to improve healthcare processes in reproductive health.
I would say, stay deeply connected to people that you met at university. They will be your foundation, your network, your resource. Stay wide in your approach. Don’t narrow yourself down to any particular field. Try different things because you never know – an unexpected opportunity that might be a little uncomfortable might just change your life in a way that you would never expect.”
Two Alumni Service Awards were made, recognising dedicated support of the University, through volunteering, philanthropy, mentoring or providing expertise to help further Southampton’s aims.
The first Alumni Service Award was presented jointly to Jim (BSc Economics, 1956) and Monica Hubner (BA German, 1955) for years of service to the institution, and a true commitment to Southampton, demonstrated over a lifetime
Jim and Monica met as students at Southampton in the 1950s, and after graduating stayed closely connected to the University. Jim often says that he feels as if he never really left.
Jim and his late wife Monica, who sadly passed away last year, were both active members of the University Council over many years. They both had a strong belief in the importance of the alumni community and its power to build meaningful relationships beyond graduation.
“Monica deserves 85% of the credit for this award. Perhaps I could have 15% of it! She’s the one who really did the work. Though I suppose I did a fair bit in the past before she took over.
There used to be a strong Convocation gathering every year, which frequently we ran. Convocation was an annual meeting, which all the University’s alumni used to be invited to attend. I became Chair of Convocation and was on Council for nine years.
After I retired from that, Monica took over and she was on Council for ten years. We’ve known almost all the Vice Chancellors from day one and Monica really pushed them to properly resource the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office.
I studied economics and accountancy at Southampton because I thought it would be useful, and it was. But it was only as a background. Far more important was what I got out of being part of the University, and always staying connected to it.”
Jim and Monica celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at Chilworth House.
A second Alumni Service Award was made to James Vernon (MEng Electronics and Computer Science, 1987) for sustained support of a diverse range of University activities, and for giving both time and money to advance our aims.
James has been a passionate supporter of a wide range of projects and priorities across the University, using his time, expertise and energy to help develop volunteering, mentoring, advocacy, enterprise and engagement in support of our students, research and infrastructure.
James has been heavily involved with the University’s start-up incubator, Future Worlds, playing an active role in mentoring founders, advising and showcasing enterprise at Southampton through the ‘Dragon’s Den’ event, and investing in several of the start-ups. James advocated for the scheme and actively encouraged other alumni and contacts to support ambitious progress within Southampton-based companies.
Together with his wife Mindy, James made a significant donation to the Cancer Immunology Campaign to fund the clinical trials unit at the Centre, an important and central part of the facility, which continues to transform the landscape of cancer research and treatment.
“I was delighted to win this award. Studying at such a prestigious, world-class institution set me up for success – the University has been a good friend to me. In return, I like to think I’ve been a good friend to the University: it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
As a student at Southampton, I met lots of people who helped me to raise my game, people from all different walks of life that broadened my horizons and interests, and got me involved in many different activities. And now, through my involvement with various projects at the University, I hope that I am helping others to raise their game too.
To anyone starting out on their journey as a Southampton graduate, I would say – be energetic in what you do. Choose what you want to do and then go about it with a sense of purpose. Don’t waste too much time. You don’t need to be in a rush, but do choose your endeavour. And whether it’s play or going travelling or looking for work, whatever it is, be positive and go about it with a sense of focus, purpose and energy.”
The Vice-Chancellor’s Celebration Dinner was also an opportunity to welcome this year’s Honorary Graduates to the Southampton alumni and supporter community. Honorary degrees are conferred on exceptional individuals with a connection to Southampton and the University’s world-class research agenda.
Dr Stefan Cross KC (Hons)
Stefan Cross is one of the UK’s leading employment lawyers – his pioneering equal pay litigation has changed the legal landscape. Stefan a working-class boy on free school meals, graduated with an LLB Law degree from Southampton in 1982. From 2003-2013 his own firm, Stefan Cross Solicitors, conducted more than 30,000 successful equal pay claims, recovering more than £2bn for low paid women and men.
Professor Sir Ian Diamond is the UK’s National Statistician, Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Permanent Secretary of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Head of the Government Statistical Service.
Admiral Dr Sir Tony Radakin KCB ADC
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has been the Chief of Defence Staff, the professional head of the British Armed Forces, since November 2021. Previously, he was the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. Sir Tony’s operational service has involved: the Iran/Iraq Tanker War; security duties in the Falklands; NATO embargo operations in the Adriatic; countering smuggling in Hong Kong and the Caribbean; and three command tours in Iraq. Sir Tony graduated from Southampton with an LLB Law degree in 1989.
Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE FIEY
Dr Hayaatun Sillem is the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation. She has extensive leadership experience in UK and international engineering innovation, and diversity and inclusion activities.
Professor Derrick Swartz
Professor Derrick Swartz is a science advisor, higher education leader and democratic activist in South Africa. He is currently serving as Special Advisor to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, working on ‘grand challenges’ in climate change, renewable energy, health, food sovereignty and sustainable economic development.