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Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE awarded Honorary Doctorate for outstanding achievements in the voluntary and public sectors

Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE awarded Honorary Doctorate for outstanding achievements in the voluntary and public sectors

  • Date11 July 2022

Dame Fiona Reynolds DBE has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science by Royal Holloway for her achievements in the voluntary and public sectors, her leadership in higher education and her passionate advocacy for landscape, conservation and historical geography.

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Dame Fiona’s deep love of the countryside was established during her childhood, holidaying with her parents and four sisters in Snowdonia, the Lake District and Scotland.

After secondary school at Rugby High School for Girls, Dame Fiona went to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she read geography and land economy.

After graduating with a first, followed by a Master’s degree, Dame Fiona got her first job working for the Council (now Campaign) for National Parks. There, she learnt how to lobby politicians and influential organisations about conservation.

From there she moved on to the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England where she rose to the position of Chief Executive and then made the leap from the voluntary sector to central government, joining the Cabinet Office as Director of the Women’s Unit in 1998.

That same year, she was appointed CBE.

Two years into the role, Dame Fiona’s dream job at the National Trust arose, and in 2001 she became the first female Director General of the organisation. Within weeks of starting the job, she was facing the foot and mouth crisis which saw her having to close all the National Trust’s properties, leaving the charity with a huge loss of funding.

However, through her stewardship she navigated the charity to success.

During her 12-year tenure she grew the membership from 2.7m to 4m people, thanks in no small part to her transformation of the Trust into a warm and welcoming, family-friendly organisation, championing ‘open arms conservation’ and raising the profile of the Trust’s work in the countryside.

Dame Fiona said of her Honorary Doctorate at Royal Holloway, said: “I am thrilled and honoured to be presented with this degree from a university that shares my passion for and has led the way in championing historical geography.”

Dame Fiona also surpassed another glass ceiling when she became the first female Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 2012.

She remained in the post for nine years, during which time she published her book ‘The Fight for Beauty: Our Path to a Better Future’.

In July 2020, the government announced that Dame Fiona had been appointed as the next Chair of the National Audit Office (NOA), a position she took up in January 2021. There she provides leadership and direction to the NAO board, setting its agenda, and leading the non-executive members in providing support to the NAO’s executive management and the Comptroller and Auditor General.

At the beginning of this year, it was announced that Dame Fiona was to become the Chair of Governing Council at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, in addition to her many and varied non-executive directorships.

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