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Sonita Alleyne OBE: First black leader of an Oxbridge college

APPOINTED: Sonita Alleyne (Photo credit: Damian Paul Daniel)

EX-BBC Trustee and businesswoman Sonita Alleyne OBE will make history as she becomes the first black person to lead an Oxbridge college.

The 51-year-old was elected master of Jesus College, Cambridge and will be the first female head in the history of the college, which was founded in 1496.

In a statement, she said: “It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community. Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.

“In addition to the outstanding education, the cross-disciplinary work and evident passion for arts, culture and sport I have seen at Jesus is impressive.

“Supporting the work of the College to widen access and participation to all that it offers promises to be incredibly rewarding. I left Cambridge thirty years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning.”

Born in Barbados and brought up in east London, Alleyne studied for her undergraduate degree in philosophy at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. A career in radio followed, including founding production company Somethin' Else which she led as Chief Executive from 1991 until 2009.

Winner of the Carlton Multicultural Achievement Award for TV and Radio in 2002, she is a Fellow of both The Royal Society of the Arts and the Radio Academy. Alleyne was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting in 2004.

Prof Mary Laven, who led Jesus College search committee, said: “We’re thrilled by the election of Sonita Alleyne, who will be an inspirational master. She brings to the college a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to helping young people fulfil their potential.”

Alleyne will be the college’s 42nd master, taking over for Professor Ian white, who was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Bath earlier this year.

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