Shortlisted Alumnae

Our alumnae are an amazing group of women, excelling in so many different ways and in so many different areas and the Ad Lucem Awards are a way of celebrating some of these achievements, as well as inspiring current pupils. The recipient of an Ad Lucem Award is a Withington alumna who has made an outstanding contribution to society, or who acts as an inspirational role model, either in a professional, voluntary or philanthropic capacity, or through their personal endeavours.  Their achievements, outlook and conduct will demonstrate that they continue to reflect the school’s ethos and values, making them an exceptional public ambassador for our school community.

We would like to congratulate all the amazing alumnae who were nominated for the Ad Lucem Alumnae Awards. The recipients of the very first Ad Lucem Alumnae Awards will be announced in the Senior School Assembly on Monday 4th October. This follows a vote by all Senior school students.

Gabby Edlin

Class of 2004

Gabby is an activist campaigning for menstrual equity, and the CEO and Founder of the charity Bloody Good Period.

She started Bloody Good Period in 2016 when she was volunteering at an asylum-seekers’ drop-in centre and discovered that period products were only provided ‘in emergencies’. A shout out for donations of pads and tampons on Facebook has turned into a full-blown operation to collect and distribute toiletries and period supplies for asylum seekers all around the UK.

Education is also an important part of Gabby’s work with BGP. Realising how infrequently the communities with whom the charity works visit medical clinics or make appointments to see medical practitioners, the charity developed also delivers sessions and workshops to support female asylum seekers and refugees, helping them to understand more about their bodies and sexual and reproductive health.

With the pandemic continuing to push people into financial hardship and poverty, more and more people are forced to make impossible choices between these essentials and other items. The level of demand is six times higher than pre-pandemic.

Bloody Good Period has distributed 66,000 packs of period products since the start of UK lockdown in March 2020. Products have gone to refugees and asylum-seekers, food banks, community response groups, shelters for the homeless, those fleeing domestic violence, and in the early days of the pandemic, NHS frontline workers.

Gabby has a Masters in Applied Imagination from Central St Martins (Distinction) specialising in feminism and comedy.

She took part in our Careers Convention 2021 talking about her career and her role at BGP. Current pupols can listen to this on the Careers Convention Stream Channel.


Brenda Milner

Class of 1936

 At the age of 103, Dr Brenda Milner is still working!

She is Canada’s pre-eminent neuropsychologist, having pioneered research into the human brain; many consider her a founder of the field of clinical neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. She is the Dorothy J. Killam Professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital, and a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Her contributions revolutionized our understanding of how brain structures govern different learning, memory and speech functions. She has received numerous major awards and honours. Her career spans more than 70 years – 60 of those years as a member of the McGill/Neuro community, where she directed the neuropsychology laboratory at The Neuro and taught in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery. Brenda’s long career is difficult to summarise. Her extensive body of work and contribution to many significant discoveries paved the way in the field of neuroscience and are still studied by psychologists and students around the world, including Withington’s A Level Psychology students.

In 2007 she set up the Brenda Milner Foundation to support a part of the education system that she felt was underfunded, post-doctoral studies. The foundation makes it possible for students who go beyond a PhD to carry on working to become established in a university department.

In 2018 the Brenda Milner Centenary Symposium was organized to celebrate Brenda’s accomplishments and reflect on all that has been learned in 100 years of neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience. In 2019 a Montreal school for children with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities and associated disorders was named after her – l’École régionale Brenda-Milner.

There is an extensive article about Brenda, celebrating her centenary, in Withington Onwards 2018.  There is also more about her life and work on the McGill University website.

*Photo credit: Meera Paleja courtesy of the Montreal Neurological Institute & Hospital


Zeenat Mohammad

Class of 1997

 Dr Mohammad works in Withington as a GP Principle and Partner. She takes pride in serving the community in which she spent her teenage years.

Her practice has been commended by the Care Quality Commission for providing outstanding services to the vulnerable migrant population and has also been awarded a Bronze Award for services to the LGBT population. She has previously been awarded 1st prize for Quality, Innovation, Performance and Productivity (QIPP) from NHS Manchester.

She is heavily involved in undergraduate medical education, helping to develop students from Imperial College London and Manchester University. She has been awarded multiple awards for her standard of teaching.

During the pandemic she ensured the safety of her staff by taking over duties from her colleagues who were deemed to be at high risk. She also supported her most vulnerable patients by providing home visits.

Now her efforts are focussed on vaccinations, not only for her own registered patients, but also for local homeless people and the wider Manchester community. She has actively promoted the vaccine to populations where the uptake has been low, such as for people of ethnic minority backgrounds, and for other vulnerable groups such as drug dependent individuals. She has also been a GP lead for a local pop-up vaccine clinic.

Zeenat studied Medicine at Cambridge University. During her gap year, she worked for Astra Zeneca pharmaceuticals in Cheshire on the testing and quality assurance processes of a prostate cancer drug. She now administers the drug herself to affected men and takes great pleasure in seeing their clinical response to the drug which allows them to lead a normal life.


Elissa Thursfield

Class of 2005

Elissa has volunteered as a crew member with the RNLI in Abersoch for fifteen years. In May 2019 she became the first female to become a helm of the lifeboat. This means that she takes command of the Altantic 85 lifeboat and of the crew when they are at sea. Her duties are described by the RNLI as, ‘to use utmost endeavours to safeguard and rescue the lives of those in danger, whilst having regard for the safety of their crew’.  As helm Elissa is responsible for the lives of her crew on board the lifeboat and any person rescued on service. The role demands the ability to make decisions under pressure as well as leadership and strategic skills. She and the Abersoch crew have also been featured several times in the BBC series ‘Saving Lives at Sea’.

Elissa has also served as a member of the elite RNLI Flood Rescue Team and was deployed to the Cumbria Floods in 2015. She is also a trained community first responder, providing emergency treatment to people in her local area.

Elissa says that, ‘volunteering in any capacity gives you the opportunity to change someone’s life’.

Professionally, Elissa is Head of Employment Law and a Director of leading North Wales law firm, Gamlins. In 2020 she founded HR Anchor which she heads up as Managing Director alongside her role as a solicitor with Gamlins Law. In 2016 she was the Junior Solicitor of the Year Award un the Law Society Excellence Awards and was shortlisted for Solicitor of the Year in Private Practice in 2020.

An accomplished public speaker, Elissa speaks on Employment Law issues as well as her experiences with the RNLI. Last Autumn she featured in our Spotcast On interview speaking with Assistant Head, Dr Madden.


Tori Longdon

Class of 2009

Tori is a well-known choral conductor. During lockdown she co-founded the Stay at Home Choir, an online music-making community running virtual choir projects which have allowed more than 23,000 amateur singers from around the world to meet and collaborate over the internet.

Tori began the Stay At Home Choir amid global adversity with the aim of providing hope and solace to those isolated during the pandemic by coming together to sing. During the pandemic the Stay at Home Choir have worked with Gareth Malone, The King’s Singers, John Rutter, The Philharmonic Orchestra, Voces8, The Sixteen and taken part in a virtual and live 20th anniversary performance of Karl Jenkins’ Armed Man in collaboration with Classic FM. She received a Royal Philharmonic Society Inspiration Award for the Stay at Home Choir in November 2020.

Tori studied at Durham University and the Royal Academy of Music. She directs a number of ensembles around London and is a passionate advocate of music education in all its forms, teaching at the Junior Guildhall conservatoire in London and coaching voice for the Royal Schools of Church Music and the Voices Foundation. She is also a conductor for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.

Tori has appeared as an on-screen conductor for Songs of Praise on BBC1, as well as an adjudicator for Young Choir Of The Year and Young Chorister Of The Year. She appeared on BBC2 as a judge on two series of Gareth Malone’s The Choir. Tori leads workshops and adjudicates nationally and internationally.

She is passionate about entrepreneurship, particularly in the music industry, and is interested in engaging with other musicians about these issues, and encourage them to follow more entrepreneurial careers. She is also an advocate for women in leadership, having been shortlisted for the 2019 Women of The Future awards.

For more about Tori, you can listen to her talking with Director of Music, Miss Sargent on Spotcast On.


Bronya Sykes

Class of 2018

Bronya was part of this year’s Cambridge eight in the Women’s University Boat Race.

She was originally selected for the 2020 race which was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. Undeterred, Bronya still worked hard at her training to give herself the best chance for being selected again this year.

Once selected, training was a real challenge with no in person training on or off the water, due to the lockdowns. Sessions on rowing machines, bodyweight circuits and working out via Zoom became standard. Along with all the extra training challenges, this year’s race had to take place on the Great Ouse at Ely, rather than the traditional course on the River Thames in London, making the result less predictable.

Bronya also had to maintain her studies in Natural Sciences as well as manage her training schedule. There are usually 12 training sessions a week early in the morning and in the evening, but Bronya says she employs ‘extreme time management to get everything done’ and credits Withington for helping her to develop her organisational skills.

Bronya has been rowing since she was 11 and, as a junior, competed both locally and nationally. She only moved from scullying (two oars) to sweep (one oar) when she started at Cambridge. She would like to take part in another Boat Race campaign and has aspirations to take her rowing further, so watch this space!

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