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From our Director of Development: Alumnae highlights

From our Director of Development: Alumnae highlights

During this review of our exceptional alumnae from St Mary’s School, Cambridge we are aiming to showcase and celebrate the remarkable achievements, profound growth and lasting impact of the talented woman who have emerged from our community.

Over the years, St Mary’s has nurtured and empowered young minds, creating a vibrant environment that encourages curiosity, resilience, and the pursuit of becoming the truest version of yourself.

As they proudly look back on the invaluable education and unwavering support our alumnae received whilst they were at school, we can see success that they have had in diverse fields and by enriching society in countless ways.

This review is a testament to the transformative power of education and the indomitable spirit of our talented and hardworking alumnae. From scientists to influential leadership positions, from artists to groundbreaking social activism, music scholars and sportwoman, these outstanding women have embarked on extraordinary journeys, leaving an indelible mark on their respective fields and inspiring generations to come.

Each story serves as a testament to the profound influence of our St Mary’s commitment to fostering an environment that encourages intellectual curiosity, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence. Through the shared experiences and collective achievements of our alumnae, we aim to illuminate the path forward, inspiring current students to dream big, pursue their passions, and shatter glass ceilings with unwavering determination.

Lucy Qian on studying Fashion at NUA

Lucy is currently in her second year of a Fashion degree at Norwich University of the Arts, Lucy studied Art and Textiles at both GCSE and then A Level at St Mary's.

This year we welcomed her back to St Mary's for a second time to share her valuable experiences with our current Photography, Art and Textiles students. Lucy has been privileged to meet HRH the late Queen's own tailor, who came to visit the university, and was very complimentary about Lucy's work, describing her as "very employable".

With choices to make at the end of her third year - to go into the fashion industry or study a Masters - whichever she chooses, we are confident that Lucy will give it her all, with great success, and we look forward to keeping pace with her progress.

Ali Lowe publishes second novel - The Running Club

We are delighted to hear that alumna Ali Lowe - formerly Alison Wick - has just published her second novel, The Running Club, with Hodder & Staughton.

The Running Club, is advertised as a 'gripping, twisty page-turner from the author of THE TRIVIA NIGHT, full of secrets, lies and reveals you won't see coming'.

Ali talks about her time at St Mary's with fondness:

My memories of St Mary's are good ones: being in the Chamber Choir with Mr Benziger and singing 'I am Sixteen' from the Sound of Music at the school concert; being a foreign reporter in Bugsy Malone and speaking French - badly...Mr Dodsworth and his amusing history lessons!

Ali lives on the northern beaches of Sydney with her husband Rob and her three 'very Australian' children: Rafferty, Savannah and Atticus.

Congratulations Ali from everyone at St Mary's on your latest novel!

St Mary's alumnae extol their university experiences

We were delighted to welcome back two of our Class of 2021 to a Learning Lunch, where they shared their experiences of university with current Sixth Form students.

Bella Tam and Maja Seremak spoke enthusiastically, from an academic viewpoint and a social aspect, citing the importance of a balanced approach to both.

Bella is studying Architecture and Environmental Design at Nottingham University, following a passion which saw her designing a garment in Gothic style for her Sixth Form EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) and realising that her creativity could have a far wider application in the world of architecture.

She describes her course as:

A good balance of technical and artistic expression.

Next year will see her continuing her studies at the China campus of Nottingham University.


Maja 'spoke from the heart' when giving advice about her Classics course at Peterhouse, Cambridge.

She explained that she always wanted to study Humanities because of the opportunities to delve into a vast range of topics, from linguistics to history, applying logical thinking and attention to detail in her highly flexible course.

She finds it an enriching experience to connect with so many people, not just those in her year, and strongly advises that staying on top of your work is vital, giving you time to enjoy wider interests. While keeping up with the work, she is keen to point out that:

There is much more to the university journey than just the academic lifestyle; it is all about the balance, to become a well-rounded individual.

This may explain why she is Club Secretary of the renowned Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club!

Year 12 students inspired by alumnae at ‘Learning Lunch’

In February, our Year 12 students relished the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge from their predecessors during an informative Learning Lunch hosted by two St Mary’s alumnae.

The session is part of our ongoing initiative to give students the opportunity to benefit from the experiences of different speakers in a relaxed setting.

Jenifer Elmslie and Claudia Driscoll, who both left St Mary’s in 2014, gave students an insight into the worlds of STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine) and Law, including the various career paths open to pupils when studying these subjects.

Following her time at St Mary’s, Jenifer completed a Master’s degree at the London School of Economics in International Development, Gender and Globalisation. She now works as a project manager on The Aviation Impact Accelerator, a cross department University of Cambridge initiative aimed at accelerating the transition to net zero air travel. Claudia is currently a PhD student at Oxford University, studying interdisciplinary biosciences, focusing on Biochemistry and Biotechnology.

Both speakers delivered insightful talks and students were interested to hear about their experiences and careers so far.

Jenifer shared her advice on applying for internships and spoke about her work at the United Nations, which she said helped her to achieve her current role.

Claudia explained the benefits of doing a Natural Sciences degree and the differences between working in industry and in research. She also spoke about some of the exciting projects she's been working on, including biospecific antibodies, and their potential future use in medical treatments.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State, returns to visit former school

St Mary’s School was delighted to host a visit from a distinguished former student, who has risen to the highest echelons of business and politics.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG has been a Minister of State in the Cabinet Office since November 2022; was made a Conservative Life Peer in the House of Lords in 2013; and has sat on the board of some of the UK’s best known businesses including ITV, PwC and Tesco PLC.

Returning to St Mary’s for the first time since she studied at its Sixth Form from 1967-1969, the Baroness and her husband, Sir Richard Packer, were keen to spend time with students, staff, governors, and patrons to find out how the school has changed and the plans for its 125th anniversary year, which begins in October 2023.

Following a reminiscent tour of St Mary’s facilities, including its chapel, new classrooms, refurbished dining hall and blooming gardens, the Baroness met four students, who were curious to learn how she got into politics; what a day in the life of the House of Lords entails; and what she studied at the school and university.

The Baroness then enjoyed a lunch, prepared by the school’s chefs, with St Mary’s Headmistress, Charlotte Avery; School Bursar, Faisal Babar; and other guests including Catholic philanthropist Sir Christian Sweeting; School Governor, Jo Mackenzie, and her partner, former Essex County Cricket and Ipswich CEO, Derek Bowden.

Commenting on Twitter, the Baroness, said:

I was delighted to visit my old school and find it going from strength to strength. The girls talked about university, careers, and cricket (and) the austere old cloister has become a wonderful garden.

Emma Hanbury, Director of Development

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