Richmond upon Thames College Alumni
Find out what former Richmond upon Thames College students are doing now
This is where you can find out more about what some of our former students (alumni) are doing now. If you are a perspective student, this can give you an idea about some of the careers that you could go into and the route you can take. We hope that it will give you the inspiration to follow your passion.
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Meet our Alumni
Studied at Twickenham Technical College (now RuTC) from 1941-1943
From 1941 to 1943 Ron Penn studied at Twickenham Technical College, now Richmond upon Thames College, only four years after the college was founded and opened its doors to students. After he read an article about the college’s history and new college campus in the Richmond & Twickenham Times, published on 13 February 2020, he got in touch with us. We found his story so inspiring and are grateful to hear what an impact his time at our college had, that we want to share his words with you:
“I have just read in my electronic version of the Richmond & Twickenham Times about the your new buildings on the Egerton Road site of the old Twickenham Technical College and I felt I should tell you of the great influence that the college had on my life.
In 1941, I transferred from the then Thames Valley County School to the Twickenham Technical College with the intention of becoming a toolmaker or draughtsman. However, the teaching that I received at the college encouraged me to follow my uncle’s profession (Bacteriologist at Kings College London) in the world of science. After finishing the two years at the college, I obtained a position in the laboratory attached to Chiswick Products Ltd, the manufacturer of Cherry Blossom and Nugget shoe polishes, plus a number of other polishes.
Just after my 17th birthday, I enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Supply Assistant and eventually arrived in Sydney, Australia as a member of the British Pacific Fleet. During my time serving in this area, I met a young high school student teacher who was later to become my wife. I returned to civilian life in the UK for 12 months before returning to Sydney to live. During that 12 months I obtained a position as a Laboratory Assistant in the Physiology Department at the London School of Medicine for Women.
Being an ex-serviceman who had been to Australia and had the word “medical” in his job description, I was given top priority in the then very new Australian Assisted Passage Scheme and I arrived back in Sydney exactly 12 months after I had left it. I was fortunate enough to bear a letter of introduction from the Professor of Physiology at the LSMW to her equivalent at the University of Sydney, who did not have a suitable vacancy, but contacted the Faculty of Veterinary Science, where they were just about to establish a brand new Department of Veterinary Physiology. Because, the practical teaching equipment that had been ordered for the new department was exactly the same as that I had been working with in London, I was employed as the first member of staff of the new department.
After the first seven years, during which I studied for four nights a week, I was promoted to the professional staff, involved primarily in teaching and also in a number of research projects. I was able to make a number of university funded overseas study tours, during which I also revisited TVCS, Chiswick Products and the LSMW in my more elevated position. I had a particular sense of delight both at TVCS where I was invited to have morning tea with the teaching staff before being conducted on a tour of the school and also having lunch with the Chief Chemist in the Director’s Dining Room at Chiswick Products. I was also welcomed by Professors of Physiology and Veterinary Physiology in the USA, Britain, Japan and other countries. I even spent a most interesting few days with a Professor of Physiology staying with him and his wife at their holiday home in the desert in Arizona.
I was also heavily involved in university extracurricular activities as President of the Sydney University Professional Officer Association for 14 years, a member of the University Parking, Safety, and Promotions committees, etc.
I retired from the University of Sydney in 1987 as the manager of the same department where I started 40 years previously, but still involved in some aspects of the teaching program. In 1986 I was greatly honoured to be awarded the OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) in recognition of my work with the university, plus that which I had done and still do, as a Commissioner with the Scout Association of Australia.
Since my retirement, apart from caring for my late wife for a number of years, I have written seven books, including one entitled “My Life in the World of Science”. All these books have been made possible by vast amounts of research I have conducted on the internet. Once you get bitten by the research bug, it is impossible to stop the itch.
I seem to have rambled on, but I need to say that whatever I have been able to achieve in my life, I sincerely believe that it is due to the two years that I spent at Twickenham Technical College. I wish you well in your new premises and that you continue to help many students to start a very successful career.
Just a final remark. I have recently found my copy of the technical drawing question that was part of the entrance examination for the Twickenham Technical College in 1941. I remember finding it relatively easy to complete, but quite a few of the other entrants found it quite difficult.
Ron Penn's entrance examination for Twickenham Technical College×
Helen Buckley (née Ward)
A levels English Language and Literature, History and Sociology; Journalism (2001-2003)
Helen Buckley (née Ward)
Helen Buckley studied A levels English Language and Literature, History and Sociology and as well as Journalism at RuTC from 2001 to 2003 and now is a published author.
After finishing her courses at RuTC, Helen gained a first-class degree in Journalism and Contemporary History from City University and Queen Mary University as well as a Master of Science in Gender, Sexuality, Politics and Culture from Birkbeck University of London. Helen has spent many years working for charities, including four years in Honduras. When she returned, she met her husband, who also went to RuTC. Helen is now a charity communications manager. In 2019, Helen published her first contemporary fiction novel ‘Star in the Shadows’. Her novel follows a teen runaway who becomes a pop star but is still haunted by the shadows of her past.
About her time at RuTC, Helen has fond memories of the café, studying with friends in the library and enjoying Twickenham riverside after classes. She says, “I learnt so much from my Journalism course and those skills not only got me onto my degree course, but also gave me a massive advantage. I also felt that the research and questioning skills I learnt in History and Sociology really prepared me for university study.” Helen also remembers a specific class in which she created a radio feature package in the college’s radio studio, analysing ‘EastEnders’, and studying ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in English classes, which is still her favourite Shakespeare play today.
Helen highlights how her time at RuTC made her become more independent, which was an important bridge between secondary school and university. She comments, “Richmond upon Thames College gave me much more confidence as a person and helped me to grow as an individual.”×
Plumbing Level 2 (2003-2004)
Austin Sharp, studied Plumbing Level 2 at RuTC from 2003 to 2004 and now runs his own business, WeFix, in Teddington.
After finishing his course, Austin completed a gas training course, was fully qualified by the age of 20 and started to work for a one man van company for seven years. This offered him professional one on one training, which enabled him to become a senior engineering for a bigger company for two years. Having gained all these experiences and knowledge, Austin then started his own one man van company, WeFix, and with the purchase of the second van his business grew quickly.
Austin remembers the hands on practical projects the most, as they prepared him for the professional work environment. However, he also highlights the industry knowledge and confidence he got from his teachers. Both for his personal life as well as his business he learnt that in order to achieve the best you can wellbeing is key.
Austin got in touch with RuTC again when his company was searching for a business administration apprentice, and from then on he visited frequently to talk to Plumbing, Business and Design students and to run workshops with Plumbing students.
Austin says, “When I was a student I remember employers talking to us; it always filled me with a sense of confidence that, if I put in the work, I can achieve what they have too. Standing in front of the students now and looking at their faces I feel hopeful that each and every one of them will gain the knowledge and confidence to be successful in their own way.”
Austin’s company WeFix supports RuTC by offering work experience placements and will be sponsoring the college’s "Plumber of the Year" Award at the end of the academic year.×
BTEC Sport (2010-2012)
Bianca Williams shot to athletics stardom in 2014 by taking two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Bianca, who studied BTEC Sport at the college between 2010-2012, claimed her first medal in the women’s 200m with a personal best time of 22.58. She followed this up with another bronze in the women’s 4x100m, running a strong second leg for the English quartet.
Speaking to BBC Sport after finishing third in the 200m final, Bianca said that she was “gobsmacked” with her performance - especially as it was her first ever major senior championship – adding that she was “so proud of herself” for taking home a medal.
Only two weeks later, Bianca also competed for Great Britain at the European Championships in Zurich, making the 200m final and finishing an impressive fourth. “It’s been an amazing year for me,” she said. “Two bronzes at the Commonwealth Games and coming fourth here, I can’t believe it!”×
A levels and Art & Design Pre BA (2001-2004)
Dave Green won the 2014 Comedy Knights Fresh Comedian Competition in the autumn, beating more than 160 London acts on route to winning the final in Camden. His razor-sharp, one-liner routine was chosen by judges as the stand out act ahead of 11 other finalists. “I was properly chuffed to win given the stiff competition throughout the entire process,” Dave said. “I’m now looking forward to continue gigging across the country and taking my career to the next level.” Comedy Knights’ Bobby Carroll described Dave as “a worthy winner with a bright future.”
Dave, who studied A levels and the Art & Design Foundation Diploma (Pre BA) at the college between 2001-2004, took up comedy in 2011 and describes his style as “darkly surreal one liners.” He has been a finalist in the prestigious industry-nominated Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and is a former winner of the Max Turner Award.
Speaking of his time at the college, the former Orleans Park School student said, “I made some great friends during the three years I was at RuTC and really enjoyed my studies, especially the Pre BA as it prepared me for my art degree at the University of Sheffield. I’ll always be proud to say I attended Richmond upon Thames College and look back on my time there with great fondness.”×
A levels Sociology, Photography and Film Studies (2000-2002)
Gemma Morris studied A levels at Richmond upon Thames College between 2000–2002, gaining A grades in Sociology, Photography and Film Studies. She went on to study a BTEC Foundation degree in Documentary Film Making at the UAL London College of Communication (formerly the London College of Printing) followed by a BA Hons in Journalism from which she graduated with first class honours. After a work experience placement at Radio Jackie, Gemma freelanced at ITN before joining Sky News radio as an intern. She then joined the multi-media network on a full time basis, working in Sky’s digital department before successfully screen testing for television. After presenting the bulletins on both Sky News and Channel Five, she now presents, produces and reports on Sky’s technology show, Swipe.
Gemma places great importance on the influence that studying at Richmond upon Thames College had on her education and future career. “I wanted to study subjects that were both interesting and relevant and my school’s sixth form college simply didn’t offer me the choices that RuTC did,” she explains. “I immediately loved the more adult college environment compared to school, and really enjoyed my courses as they were taught by professionals with a passion for their field. It was refreshing to research so many topics in depth and I also really enjoyed using the fantastic facilities. I spent a lot of time honing my photography skills in the dark room and began to get a real enjoyment out of capturing human and social behaviour on film. As well as this, my sociology lessons helped me to understand people and their emotions and the subject as a whole became fascinating to me.”
Gemma’s passion for understanding and capturing human emotions led her to her foundation degree in Documentary Film Making and she hasn’t looked back since. Her role as presenter on Swipe sees her traveling across the UK and Europe, reporting on the latest advances in technology and the effects these have on individuals and society as a whole.
“I absolutely credit Richmond upon Thames College for helping me to develop the key traits that a journalist needs,” Gemma says. “I had a brilliant two years there and I’ll always be grateful to my lecturers for setting me on my career path. Going to college and taking what were at the time less traditional A levels was the start of what has been an incredible journey for me and a choice I’m extremely glad I made.”
Gemma returned to the college in March 2015 to deliver an inspirational guest talk to film and media students, sharing her wealth of experience in broadcasting with the journalists and presenters of the future. She was also the guest speaker at the college’s 2015 Student Awards Ceremony.
A levels Art & Design, English and Politics; GCSE Photography (1997-1999)
Nina Manandhar studied A levels in Art & Design, English, Politics and GSCE Photography at Richmond upon Thames College between 1997-1999. She went on to study a Foundation Degree and BA Hons in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts before embarking on a career as a photographer, artist and modern day pop-ethnographer. She co-founded youth-led magazine The Cut and the ISYS Archive website and has had her work exhibited at Tate Modern, Exposure Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Art. Her commercial clients include Dr Martens, Adidas, JD Sports and Nike. She’s released two highly acclaimed photo-books; ‘Money on My Oyster’ in 2013 and ‘What We Wore – A People’s History of British Style’ in 2014. She is also an associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion.
“I came to Richmond upon Thames College with my three best friends as it had an excellent reputation for art and design,” Nina explains. “I particularly enjoyed the photo-book projects in art and design as my teacher was really in tune with contemporary art practice and photography and continually encouraged us all to think creatively and outside of the box. From an early age I was exploring how art, politics and society were linked together and really began to explore ideology and art in depth during my second year. It was the perfect start for what I do today.
“My Photography GCSE was also the first time I’d used an SLR camera and taught me the essential basics of being a photographer such as aperture and shutter speed. I remember one of my old college teachers telling me early on that I had a good eye but I needed to improve technically with the camera. I spent that Christmas with family in Nepal trying out some of the equipment I borrowed from the college and improving as much as I could! It’s something I’ll never forget as it helped make me the photographer I am today.”×
BTEC Music (2003-2005)
A former member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Mark Perry studied a BTEC in Music at Richmond upon Thames College between 2003-2005 and went on to study a BMus Hons in Jazz at Trinity College of Music. In 2009, he won the prestigious Yamaha Classic FM Jazzwise Scholarship award for jazz trumpet. He’s performed with acts such as Rudimental and upcoming artist BB Diamond and has appeared in music videos with Jessie J, Robin Thicke and Conor Maynard. He’s also regularly appeared in the backing band on The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. His 2013 debut jazz album, ‘Road Ahead’ was described by The Guardian as ‘an intelligent and very musical set’ and saw him perform with some of the jazz world’s top artists including Ola Onabule and Gareth Lockrane. Exclusively endorsed by Geneva Trumpets, Mark has also recently started his own music agency, Silver Stage Entertainment.
“I had a great two years at Richmond upon Thames College and it was undoubtedly the place to be to study music,” Mark explains. “I was fortunate enough to be there at a time when the music department had a couple of great college bands, including a brilliant jazz band that I became a member of. The teachers on my course were absolutely fantastic and made learning a pleasure. We all shared a love of music and spent a lot of time practising, rehearsing and generally having an incredible amount of fun.
“Another great thing about the course was that it taught me about the technical side of performing including setting up the PA for gigs and also the business side of being a musician, something I still find useful and remember to this day. The facilities were amazing to me too as I’d never had access to a recording studio before and learned a lot about recording software and setting up microphones.
“As a musician, I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled to some great venues across the world and perform alongside some incredibly talented artists. It’s crazy to think that only ten or so years ago I was happily practising with friends at Richmond upon Thames College and now I have a career doing a job that I love. Being at the college really was one of the best times of my life and I owe a lot to the music teachers for their passion and support which was vital at that stage of my career.”
image courtesy of Chelsea Bloxham×
A levels History, Media, Photography and French (2011-2013)
Hollee came to the college from Waldegrave School for Girls to study A levels in History, Media, Photography and French. After completing her studies, she began an apprenticeship with marketing company Innovation 1st and achieved an NVQ level 3 in Business & Administration.
“I chose to study at Richmond upon Thames College as it was local to me and because it offered the courses I was interested in. I especially enjoyed photography and media as the teachers were great and the lessons allowed me to be creative and learn valuable skills. I didn’t realise at the time just how useful they’d be when I began working!
“I decided on following an apprenticeship route rather than go to university as I wanted a practical, workplace learning environment. Apprenticeships are such a great opportunity to start a career at a younger age and it’s nice to also earn money whilst continuing in education. With the help of Way to Work in Twickenham, I found an apprenticeship with Innovation 1st and haven’t looked back. Amongst other things, my job role includes assisting the creative team with newsletters and photographing promotional merchandise which is where I can really use my college training. I love it and feel incredibly lucky to be working with a great company and gaining a qualification at the same time.
“I made some amazing friends at Richmond College and really enjoyed my time there. The skills I learnt in the classroom have helped me hugely in the workplace and I’ll always be grateful to my fantastic teachers.”×
A levels Economics, Maths, Politics and French (2007-2009)
Zack came to RuTC from Orleans Park School to study A levels in Economics, Mathematics, Politics and French. He left the College with four A grades and went on to study a BSc in Economics and Management at the University of Bristol, graduating with a first class honours degree. He now works in Canary Wharf for global banking giant Barclays.
“Richmond upon Thames was my local college and was the perfect place to study my A levels. Of the subjects I studied, it was economics that I enjoyed the most as the course was really well taught and gave me my first taste of finance and the global economy. The projects we worked on were fascinating and it was because of this that I chose to study economics and management at the University of Bristol.
“I began working for Barclays after graduating in 2012, having previously taken part in both their spring programme and summer internships. As part of my graduate scheme, I’m currently on a three-year rotation within the company that allows me to experience working within different departments. At present, I work as a Financial Analyst in Treasury, which manages the liquidity, capital and balance sheet requirements of Barclays. I enjoy seeing the impact that the economy has on our day-to-day work and find this the most interesting part of the job.
“My time at Richmond College was hugely enjoyable and I still keep in touch with the friends I met there. I came back in 2014 to deliver talks to current business students as part of the Barclays Money Skills initiative which felt strange after five years away! It’s a great college with teachers who really prepared me for the next stage of my education and career.”×
BTEC Travel & Tourism (2004-2006)
Gary came to Richmond upon Thames College to study a BTEC Level 3 in Travel and Tourism having previously attended Chiswick Community School. He went on to study Business Management at the University of Surrey and now works as a Sales Executive at the London Marriott Hotel Twickenham.
“I took the Travel & Tourism course at Richmond upon Thames College after my secondary school recommended it to me. The teachers on my course were outstanding and by the time I went to university, I already had a solid understanding of topics such as sustainable tourism and customer service. The college definitely gave me a head start when I started higher education.
“After university, I began working for the London Marriott Hotel in Twickenham and have been a Sales Executive there since late 2010. Working for such a major brand in the tourism industry has been hugely rewarding. My job involves attracting new clients to the hotel, dealing with local and global businesses to advertise the benefits of using us for corporate meetings, tradeshows, as a travel base etc. We also have the advantage of being part of Twickenham Stadium, meaning clients can stay with us during rugby matches and music concerts. It’s an amazing place to work.
“I’m taking lots of personal development courses with the Marriott as part of their training structure and hope to travel across the world working for the company and climbing the ladder. Without a doubt it’s thanks to Richmond upon Thames College that I have a career that I enjoy and a great future ahead of me.”×
A levels English, Media Studies, Theatre Studies and Spanish (2005-2007)
Catherine came to the College from Fulham Cross School to study A levels in English, Media Studies, Theatre Studies and Spanish. She went on to study Media & Culture at the University of Roehampton, graduating with a first class honours degree. She now works as a Communications Advisor for Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP).
“I originally chose to study at Richmond upon Thames College due to the excellent amount of A levels on offer. The quality of the teaching in all my subjects was outstanding and the guidance and advice we received was fantastic. It was thanks to my media studies lecturers that I began thinking of a career in communications as the lessons were so enjoyable and really well structured. By the time I left to study media and culture at the University of Roehampton, I already had a good understanding of my subject, making the transition to higher education feel much smoother.
“After graduating from university, I worked in a Marketing Assistant role at the London Wetland Centre before joining RHP as a Communications Advisor in July 2011. My role is to help manage the press portfolio and includes writing press releases, finding PR opportunities, producing quarterly magazines and updating the social media channels. It’s a really great place to work.
“Without a doubt it’s thanks to the college that I am where I am today. It helped shape me both personally and academically, plus I met some of my best friends there. I look back on my time as a Richmond upon Thames College student with real fondness and will always be grateful to my lecturers for setting me on the right career path.”×
A levels Maths, Further Maths and Physics (2010-2012)
Adam came to Richmond upon Thames College to study A levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics having previously attended Teddington School. He went on to study a BA Maths degree at the University of Cambridge.
“It was actually through attending an Open Event that I decided to study at Richmond upon Thames College. I was especially interested in studying A level Maths and the teachers I spoke with at the event were brilliant. They were friendly and interesting and I knew then that the College was the right choice for me.
“The support I was given by the Maths department from day one was incredible. The extra tuition I was given to help prepare for my Cambridge STEP exam in my second year was fantastic and the teachers really pushed me to achieve my best.
“Studying at such a prestigious university like Cambridge was amazing! It was hard work at times but incredible to be there amongst so many talented people.
”I still meet up with friends from college and have been to visit them at their universities across the country. It’s nice that we all started out together back in 2010 and remain great friends today. Choosing Richmond upon Thames College for my A levels really did shape my future and I’m proud to say that I studied there.”×