Aston celebrates graduate success


25 March 2015

Aston University hosted its graduation ceremonies in the grand surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall on Tuesday 31 March.

There were three postgraduate and foundation degree ceremonies in total at the grade-1 listed landmark, which first opened as a music hall in 1834. Throughout the day, nearly 600 students from across Aston’s four Schools received their degrees and were commended for their hard work.

During the ceremonies, the University presented four honorary degrees to leading figures in public affairs, the Navy, social enterprise and finance. They are: Bridget McIntyre, Elizabeth Mills OBE, Commander Sarah West RN and Bridget Blow CBE.

Bridget McIntyre – 10.30am

Bridget McIntyre is the founder of dream on, a social enterprise based in Suffolk.  After graduating from Aston University with a degree in Managerial and Administrative studies in 1983, she qualified as an account and spent the first ten years of career in a variety of businesses varying from car manufacturing to book publishing.

Bridget then moved in to the financial services sector, undertaking roles as varied as Financial Manager, Financial Director and assuming positions in Sales and Marketing.  Her career in the industry culminated as UK CEO of general insurance firm, RSA, where she was one of only 16 FTSE plc female directors.

In 2008, Bridget left the corporate world to found dream on, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting, coaching and developing women in all walks of life. The enterprise provides a range of workshops and one-to-one support sessions and offers bursaries and funded courses for those in need of them.

Elizabeth Mills OBE – 1.30pm

Elizabeth Mills runs a public affairs consultancy, providing strategic development, research and fundraising support for voluntary sector organisations, focussing on older people.

She has participated in several government consultations, and has chaired a public sector advisory body. Her clients have included Norwood, Guideposts Trust, Age UK Oxfordshire, Campaign to End Loneliness and Friends of the Elderly.

In 1990, Elizabeth became Director of UK medical research charity, Research Into Ageing, and stayed until it merged with Help The Aged (now Age UK) in 2001. She is on the Advisory Committee for the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing and is honorary director of Homeshare International. Elizabeth was awarded the OBE for services to ageing research in 2002.

Commander Sarah West RN

Sarah West joined Brittania Royal Navy College in 1995, was selected as a small ship navigator two years later and thereafter progressed to Navigating Officer of HM Somerset.

After expert training and extensive experience as the Operations Officer on HMS Norfolk in 2004, Sarah was appointed to the UK’s Amphibious Task Group as the underwater warfare specialist, responsible for the planning and execution of exercises around the world.

Chosen for sea command in 2008, she commanded HMS Penzance, HMS Ramsey, HMS Pembroke and HMS Shoreham between 2009 and 2011. A year later, she assumed command of HMS Portland, becoming the first female to take charge of a Royal Navy warship. As the Commanding Officer, Sarah was responsible for the operational capability of the Ship, managing over 200 personnel on board and providing global UK presence and reassurance. After 20 years’ service, Sarah will leave the Royal Navy in 2015 to pursue an equally challenging career in the civilian world.


Bridget Blow CBE – 4.30pm

Bridget is currently non-executive Deputy Chairman of the Coventry Building Society and a Trustee of the Birmingham Hippodrome. She is also Chair of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

She previously held a varied and successful career in the financial services sector. She was Chief Executive of ITNET, an IT and business services company, from 1994 to 2005. She led a management and employee buyout of the company in 1995 and oversaw the sale of the company to Serco plc in 2005. From 2007-2012 she was Chairman of Harvard International, leading its recovery and subsequent sale in 2012 as the first UK listed company to be sold to a Chinese listed company.

Bridget also served as the first female President of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and chaired the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership Development Board. In 2014, she was awarded an OBE for her services to Business in the West Midlands and the British Chamber of Commerce Movement.