David Attenborough wins lifetime achievement award at Bristol alumni gala

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By Rory Hosty, Second Year Politics and International Relations

Ten awards were presented to alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their respective fields.

The inaugural alumni gala was held on Tuesday 12 March, in the Lord Mayor of London’s Mansion House. The lifetime achievement award was conferred to Sir David Attenborough, who was exclusively interviewed by Bristol SU Student Living Officer Vanessa Wilson.

Although he was not a student at Bristol, Attenborough received an honorary degree from the University in 1977 while he was making 'Life on Earth' with the Bristol-based BBC natural history unit. He has more honorary degrees from British universities than any other person, having received 32 over his lifetime.

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David Attenborough and Student Living Officer Vanessa Wilson
Image: University of Bristol

Student Union Officers Stanford and Vanessa Wilson were presenters for the evening, introducing the winners of each category and providing colour-commentary.

Other winners included: Hugh Sloane, who took home the Transformative Philanthropy Award for his ten million pound contribution for the development of the University’s Temple Quarter Campus; Dr. Harry Destecroix, who received the Innovation and Enterprise for his advancements in the field of synthetic molecules that bind glucose to the bloodstream, a significant advancement in treating diabetes; and Chanté Joseph, a 2018 social policy graduate who was the beneficiary of the Vice-Chancellor's award for her work improving BME representation in Bristol and beyond.


The evening was bookended by performances from the University’s Gospel Choir and culminated in Sir Attenborough accepting his lifetime achievement award.

In his acceptance speech he spoke about the importance of the University and BBC Bristol in the creation of his work — telling the crowd how often people assumed he does everything, filming included — and spoke with urgency about the changes needed for the protection of our environment.

Speaking about his experience at the event, Stanford said: ‘Presenting at the event was an honour and a privilege, and it was great to give the perspective of current Bristol students to a room full of prestigious alumni!

‘I had the opportunity to interview some of the awards recipients, and there was a common theme amongst these successful individuals of doing more than just their degree, whether sports clubs or societies. They all agreed that extracurricular activity was vital for personal growth and I couldn’t agree more!’

Featured Image: University of Bristol


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