Benenden maintains a warm relationship with Seniors through the Benenden School Seniors’ Association (BSSA).
The main objective of the BSSA is to enable Seniors to stay in contact with each other and to associate themselves actively in support of the School. To this end, a number of social functions, reunions and business-orientated networking events take place each year around the country, as well as Seniors’ Day itself, when all Seniors are invited to spend the day here at School in the Summer Term.
We send out a monthly e-newsletter during term time featuring news and details of forthcoming events, and each Senior receives the annual Seniors’ magazine.
We encourage contact between Seniors and current pupils through seminars and lectures. Seniors are welcome to contact the Seniors’ Officer at the School. A network of Seniors Co-ordinators exist all over the UK and overseas.
For further details please contact:
Kent TN17 4AA
Over the years thousands of Benenden Seniors have gone on to make a difference in the world in many different ways. Here we share some of their stories and achievements.
Amber Atherton started her first business, My Flash Trash, whilst still in the Sixth Form at Benenden. The e-commerce company eventually sold in 2016 for more than £2 million. She also created the visual recognition app Rubric. After leaving Benenden she quickly gained fame as a creator of the popular UK reality television show Made in Chelsea. Since leaving the show she has focused on entrepreneurial projects, appearing as a Business Buddy on the television show Pocket Money Pitch and judging the UK’s national enterprise challenge. She was listed as the 5th most powerful person in digital fashion by Vogue in 2011 and was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016.
Currently, she is the Head of Strategic Communities at Discord, which she joined through the acqui-hire of her community software start-up Zyper in January 2021. Amber is now sharing her success and the entrepreneurial skills she has gained through the Atherton Award for Entrepreneurship, which encourages young students to set up businesses themselves. It offers a prize of £500 and a mentoring programme from Amber herself.
Anwulika studied English Literature, Mandarin, Politics and Philosophy and Ethics for her A Levels, before studying International Comparative Studies at Duke University, North Carolina. Anwulika is currently working as a Global Impact Strategist and Consultant.
Baroness Barran MBE
Baroness Barran MBE is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for the School System and Student Finance) at the Department for Education, where her responsibilities include independent schools, multi-academy trusts, school capital, sustainability and student finance.
After Benenden and Cambridge, she worked as an investment banker. She worked in London and Paris, and set up one of the first European hedge funds in 1993, Barran & Partners. In 2003, as head of grant development for consultancy New Philanthropy Capital, she first understood the prevalence of domestic abuse and in 2005 went on to found the charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse, which later became SafeLives, serving as its chief executive for 13 years.
Baroness Barran has been active more broadly in the field of philanthropy as a trustee of the Henry Smith Charity, Comic Relief and the Royal Foundation. She was included on the BBC’s 100 Women 2020 list which recognises influential and inspiring women from around the world.
Her work in this area was recognised in the 2011 Birthday Honours when she was appointed an MBE for services to the victims of domestic violence. In 2018 she was made a Conservative life peer and the following year Boris Johnson appointed her as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport as Minister for Civil Society and Loneliness. She moved to her current role in September 2021.
Baroness Brinton is a Liberal Democrat Peer renowned for fighting for just causes. She spent five years as her party’s President and, since being made a life peer in 2011, has served as her party’s Health spokesperson in the Lords. She is a Vice President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe.
One of her most notable political achievements was her role in making stalking a crime in its own right, which followed her own experience of being stalked. Similarly, she has used her lived experience to fight for improvements for people with disabilities. Baroness Brinton, who lives with rheumatoid arthritis and has used a wheelchair for 20 years, has served on a Lords Select Committee, holding the Government to account for disabled provision.
Her politics have always been run in conjunction with her varied career. After Benenden, Baroness Brinton studied stage management and worked as a floor manager at the BBC. In the 1980s she worked as a venture capitalist, before moving into education. She was named East Anglian Entrepreneurial Businesswoman of the Year in 1997 for her work as Bursar at Lucy Cavendish and served on various business groups, including six years on the Board of the East of England Development Agency. She is a former trustee of UNICEF UK and was a director of the University for Industry. She holds an honorary PhD from Anglia Polytechnic University and is a Fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London.
Eliza Manningham-Buller is a retired British intelligence officer. At Benenden from 1960, she went on to read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. Whilst working as a teacher, she was recruited to the Security Service at a drinks party when someone suggested that she see someone at the Ministry of Defence.
Specializing in counterterrorism, Eliza was active at the time of the Lockerbie bombing by Libya in 1988. She also worked for K-branch against the IRA. She was a senior liaison officer working out of Washington, D.C. to the US intelligence community over the period of the first Gulf War, before leading the newly created Irish counterterrorism section from 1992. She was appointed Deputy Director General in 1997, and Director General in 2002. She became Director General of MI5, the British internal Security Service, from 2002 until her retirement in 2007. After retiring, she joined the House of Lords and becoming a governor of biomedical research charity The Wellcome Trust in 2008 and the first female chair of the Trust in 2015.
Baroness Shackleton LVO
Baroness Shackleton is best known as the divorce lawyer for celebrities of her generation – counting Sir Paul McCartney, Liam Gallagher, Stephen Hawking, Madonna and the then Prince of Wales among her high-profile clients.
Over a career spanning 43 years and counting, Baroness Shackleton has earned a variety of industry accolades and is regularly named among the top legal names in the country. In addition she was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) in the New Year’s Honours List 2006, awarded an honorary doctorate by Exeter University in 2010 and made a Conservative Life Peer that year.
After leaving Benenden, she studied Law at Exeter and did her training at Herbert Smith. She qualified in 1980, was made a partner at Brecher & Co in 1981, was head-hunted to join Farrer & Co in 1983 and in 1986 was made a partner. In 1985 she co-founded the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an invitation-only collective of the world’s leading family lawyers. She joined Payne Hicks Beach in 2001 as a partner.
In collaboration with Exeter University, in 2018 she used the knowledge garnered throughout her career to conduct a research project into human relationships – known as the Shackleton Relationship Project – with a view to improving the public’s education in this area and seeking to minimise the pain of divorce.
Diana, Duchess of Wellington
Diana, Duchess of Wellington (1921-2010) was born at Woolwich and went to school at Benenden. During the Second World War, her father was stationed at Jerusalem and she accompanied him supposedly as his aide de camp, but was recruited as an intelligence officer. Her work included passing top secret documents, such as plans for a British invasion of Iraq in 1941 to nullify Arab nationalists who believed that the Nazis could help their cause.
In Jerusalem she met a young household cavalry officer called Valerian Wellesley and they were married at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem in 1944. He was posted to Italy and they were reunited on a convoy returning them to England. They served in Cyprus and Madrid after the war and in 1972 Valerian inherited the dukedom and Diana became châtelaine of Stratfield Saye, the family seat at Hampshire and Apsley House, famously given the address, “No 1 London”. In 2007 the Duchess was appointed as a Member of the British Empire for her services to Hampshire.
Dr Amy Jadesimi
Dr Amy Jadesimi is committed to developing the West African economy through sustainable industrialisation, encouraging biodiversity and mitigating climate change. As a woman succeeding in what is often seen as a man’s world, she is also passionate in promoting female equality and at the 2019 Africa Shared Value Summit in Nairobi, argued for the creation of a diverse, inclusive workplace.
Dr Jadesimi studied Physiological Sciences at Oxford and, after the award of degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, became a medical practitioner. She subsequently worked in investment banking with Goldman Sachs in London after which she attended Stanford Business School, graduating with an MBA and Global Management Certificate. In 2004 Amy joined LADOL (Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base) and became its Managing Director in 2009, establishing company systems from scratch, hiring all its employees, reformulating its business plan and negotiating with clients and financial backers. Under Dr Jadesimi’s leadership, it has become the region’s only integrated logistics base and largest base for rig and vessel repair.
Dr Rohani Omar
Dr Rohani Omar is a leading Neurotology Consultant.
After Cambridge, she completed general medical training on the London Hammersmith rotation and obtained Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP), before being awarded a Fellowship for research work at the Dementia Research Centre, Institute of Neurology.
Dr Omar’s specialism focuses on treating the very common but extremely complex disorders such as tinnitus, dizziness and complex hearing problems. She is now a consultant audiovestibular physician at UCL Hospital, where she teaches the next generation of Medical students, including Master’s students, in neurotology and neuroscience, and has recently been appointed Honorary Associate Professor. In addition, she runs adult neurotology clinics at the Royal National ENT and Eastman Dental hospitals.
Heavily involved in research, Dr Omar is the recipient of two prestigious prizes from the British Association of Audiovestibular Physicians (BAAP): the Pat Jobson Prize for her work on the neural pathways involved in the processing of music, and the Dafydd Stephens Prize for her audit of genetic testing in children with profound hearing loss.
Eleanor Boorman is one of the UK’s most respected artists, whose portfolio includes commissions from numerous notable figures including Prince William, Duke of Norfolk, Terry Waite, Simon Cowell and Mohammed Al Fayed. Her work has been exhibited around the world and in 2008 she was invited to exhibit as part of the solo exhibition of the then Prince Charles at Belgravia Gallery, London.
Miss Boorman studied Anthropology, Economics, Business Management and Psychology at Durham and then Executive Education at Harvard, before working in advertising, a career she quit in favour of studying oil painting at Charles H. Cecil studios in Florence. She accepted patronage from the van Cutsem family in Norfolk, which led to a string of commissions that helped build her profile and would set her up full-time as a sought-after artist.
Fara completed A Levels in Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Philosophy and Religion alongside a +EPQ project. While studying, Fara was involved with the Charity Committee, MUN, Intersoc, Lacrosse and many more. Fara is now studying Science, Technology and Society at Stanford University, California.
Georgina took Chemistry at AS Level and Art, Maths and Spanish through to A Level. During these studies, Georgina played the drums and piano and performed with the Orchestra at Benenden. Currently, Georgina is attending the Rhode Island School of Design.
Her Royal Highness Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan
The only daughter of King Talal and Queen Zein of Jordan, Princess Basma holds a doctoral degree in development studies from Oxford University. Throughout her career she has devoted herself to improving the lives of marginalised and vulnerable groups throughout Jordan.
Princess Basma’s humanitarian work began in 1977 when, at the request of her brother, His Majesty the late King Hussein bin Talal, she established the now well-known Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD). This was the first Jordanian non-governmental organisation to address development issues at a nationwide level, with a network of community centres across the country that remains strong today.
Princess Basma has also been a leading proponent of women’s rights in Jordan and across the region. In 1992, Princess Basma established the Jordanian National Commission for Women, which works towards women’s empowerment and equality. Princess Basma has led a series of other notable campaigns, including her 1991 launch of the annual National Goodwill Campaign which, inspired by Islamic values and culminating each year during the Holy Month of Ramadan, raises funds to help people living in abject poverty, offering medical assistance, food aid, or support to small family income-generating projects.
Princess Basma has been Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women since 1995 and is global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, as well as Honorary Human Development Ambassador for the UNDP.
Iona took Chemistry at AS Level and completed A Levels in English Literature, Maths and Philosophy and Religion, as well as a +EPQ project. While at Benenden, Iona took part in the Microlight project, WordFactory magazine, the Partnerships Programme and Debate club among others. Iona now studies English at the University of Cambridge.
Lettice Curtis was one of the finest women pilots of the Second World War, delivering more than 1,000 bombers and fighters around Britain. Lettice became the first woman to be cleared to fly four-engined heavy bombers during her service with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). By 1938 she had qualified and worked on Ordnance Survey aerial mapping until the outbreak of war.
It was during the war years that her achievements came to the fore. When the Battle of Britain began in June 1940, Lettice received a letter of invitation from Pauline Gower, daughter of a Conservative MP and organiser of the ATA women’s section. There were initial attempts by authorities to restrict female pilots to delivering bi-planes and training aircraft, but by 1941 pilots were very much needed and the initial resistance waned.
In 62 consecutive months between 1940-1945 she delivered 1,467 planes – trainers, fighters and bombers around Britain, often in dangerous flying conditions and without radios and navigational aids except for maps.
Louise studied Politics and Critical Thinking at AS Level, and English Literature, French and Spanish at A Level. Louise went on to study Modern and Medieval Languages (French and Spanish) at Christ’s College, Cambridge, followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Accelerated Legal Practice Course in London. Currently, Louise works as Legal Counsel at Formula 1.
Immediately after leaving Benenden, Rosie Garthwaite embarked on a gap-year programme with the British Army. She then joined St Hugh’s College, Oxford, to read Ancient and Modern History, graduating with a Master’s in 2003.
Shortly after graduating, Rosie journeyed to Iraq as a freelancer without any of the standard training and support generally afforded to news staff entering conflict zones and was soon supplying photographs and stories to major outlets.
Rosie left Iraq late in 2003, and by early 2004 had joined the BBC’s current affairs division. In 2006, she joined Al Jazeera English, rising to a full-time producer and then moved to Qatar to help with the channel’s launch for a few weeks. She ended up staying for nine years.
In 2011, Rosie’s first book, an award-winning collection of survival tips for visitors to dangerous places called How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone, was published by Bloomsbury.
Rosie founded the independent production company Mediadante in Doha, producing “documentaries, news, digital projects and innovative content about hard-to-access people and places”. With Mediadante, Rosie developed the Emmy-winning Escape from Isis which aired on Channel 4, and produced the Emmy-nominated The Workers Cup, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Festival.
Rosie is now back at the BBC in a leadership position, making international current affairs documentaries. She has recently won a Royal Television Society award for best international current affairs documentary for a film called Under Poisoned Skies and Mediadante continues to produce “difficult but powerful documentaries”.
Margaret Susan Cheshire, Baroness Ryder of Warsaw, Lady Cheshire, CMG, OBE – best known as Sue Ryder – attended Benenden from 1936-1939. In World War Two Sue enlisted in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry – the link between the field hospitals and the front lines. She was soon recruited by the Special Operations Executive, which was tasked with conducting espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance against the Axis powers in Europe.
After the war she expanded her work, supporting people with complex needs and life-threatening conditions across the UK and internationally. The first Sue Ryder home in the UK opened in her mother’s house in Cavendish, Suffolk, in 1952. The scope of her work widened to include supporting people with palliative and neurological conditions across the UK and internationally. In 1974, the first home for cancer patients was opened, and soon Sue was asked to provide similar homes across the nation. Today there are seven hospices and four neurological care centres continuing the work of Lady Ryder. When she died on 2 November 2000, she left behind a legacy of charities around the world which continue to provide care.
The Reverend Pippa Turner
After School, The Reverend Pippa Turner volunteered in Zimbabwe and Malawi and then read Theology at Durham before heading to Yale. Over the next few years, Pippa obtained her Master’s, trained in hospital chaplaincy, volunteered in Bolivia, became a Pediatric AIDS Chaplain at New York Hospital and in 1995 achieved her dream of being ordained – just months after the UK saw its first female priests.
She was Associate Priest at the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York when al-Qaeda targeted the city on September 11. In the following days, Pippa was among a number of clergy allowed into the restricted site that would become known as Ground Zero. For the next nine months, in fortnightly shifts, she volunteered as a chaplain on the site to bless the remains when they were brought out, and to offer spiritual support to the emergency teams, who were often retrieving the remains of their colleagues.
After 20 years in New York, Reverend Turner returned to London in 2008, initially as Chaplain to the Royal Veterinary College and UCL Medical School and then also Associate Priest at St John’s Hyde Park, before taking up her current position as Vicar of St Philip’s, Earls Court Road, W8.
Saskia studied Biology at AS Level and Latin, Maths and Spanish to A Level, gaining a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and taking part in the Lacrosse and Squash teams at Benenden. Saskia is now studying Spanish at St Peter’s College, Oxford.