Alumni Profiles

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.

Alumni

Sue Ryder
Sue Ryder (Ma 40)

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.

Eliza Manningham-Buller
Eliza Manningham-Buller (E 66)

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.

Diana Wellesley
Diana, Duchess of Wellington (G 39)

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.

Amber Atherton
Amber Atherton (M/Elms 09)

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.

Louise
Louise Floyd (E/Elms 08)

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.

Anwulika
Anwulika Okonjo (E/Elms 17) 

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.

Saskia
Saskia Geddes (N/Elms 18) 

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.

Georgina
Georgina O’Brien (E/Elms 19)

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.

Fara
Fara Bakare (G/Limes 21)

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.

Iona
Iona Warne (N/Elms 21)

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.