From South Uist to Australia: UHI announces alumni of the year

A music graduate from South Uist and a history graduate from Australia have been named as UHI’s 2023 alumni of the year award winners.

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Chloe Steele and Dr Graham Hannaford

The annual awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions of UHI’s alumni, particularly in professional success, community involvement and commitment to UHI.

Chloe Steele grew up in South Uist and completed UHI’s BA (Hons) in applied music in 2020 at UHI Outer Hebrides (now UHI North, West and Hebrides). She is a Gaelic singer and piper who enjoys organising community projects. Her latest venture is an album of Gaelic music and song, with proceeds going to charity. She recently completed UHI’s PGDE in primary education (Gaelic) and has started her probationary year at Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath.

Chloe was nominated by Anna-Wendy Stevenson, programme leader for UHI’s BA applied music. She commented: “Born and raised in South Uist, Chloe is the first person from the Outer Hebrides to graduate with the full honours degree in applied music, studying from home. She is dedicated to her community and her latest project highlights this - an album of Gaelic song and music funded through business sponsorship. The album was recorded at the Cnoc Soilleir Centre and showcases members of the community. It will be launched in November, with proceeds going to Western Isles Cancer Care in memory of her partner's late father. Chloe is a fantastic example of the reach, value, inspiration and impact that studying with UHI can offer.”

Speaking about her award, Chloe said: “Recognition of my hard work, passion and dedication to my culture and community through this award is truly humbling and rewarding. I hope that those who read my story will be inspired to connect with their own cultural roots. The opportunities I have received through studying with UHI have been life changing. They have provided me with the chance to value and appreciate my culture on a personal, deep and meaningful level. This has helped me to shape the path and person I am today.”

Dr Graham Hannaford, a retired civil servant, completed UHI’s MLitt History of the Highlands and Islands from his home in Australia from 2011 to 2015. He then went on to complete a PhD with Federation University. He is the Honorary Secretary to the Sydney Society for Scottish History and was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2023. He lives in Canberra with his wife, has one son and two granddaughters.

Graham was nominated by Professor David Worthington, Head of UHI’s Centre for History. Professor Worthington explained: “Graham was one of the first students on our MLitt History of the Highlands and Islands when it was launched in 2011. Then in his mid-60s, he studied entirely online from his home in Australia. He went on to complete the degree in 2015, achieving a range of distinction level marks.

“Since graduating, Graham has been a champion of the Centre for History, distributing leaflets and writing about our degrees in publications including clan society newsletters. He retains strong contacts with us and has visited us in Dornoch twice. We recommend him for this award because of this longstanding support and for assisting us with connections into Scottish diasporic community life in Australia.”

Graham said: “As a student who has studied online and from a great distance, I am excited because this award provides recognition of the global reach of UHI and, in particular, the efforts of the Centre for History to engage with a community which knows no geographic bounds. At a personal level, I see the award showing that age is no barrier to academic study and achievement (I am 75) and I hope that it will encourage students and alumni of all ages to continue to work towards their own goals.”

Alison Wilson, UHI’s Director of Development and Alumni Engagement, commented: “We are absolutely delighted that Chloe and Graham have been chosen as alumni of the year. Chloe’s commitment to and passion for traditional music and her community are fantastic to see. Her work on her latest album, where she is donating proceeds to a local charity, is to be commended. Graham’s ongoing support for the Centre for History and work to connect UHI into the Scottish diasporic community is greatly valued and worthy of recognition. The panel believe they are both worthy winners and that their fantastic achievements and successes will inspire other students and alumni.”

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