Glad Tidings: Four Somervillians Named in New Year’s Honours List 2020-21

8th January 2021

It is a great pleasure to confirm that four Somerville alumnae have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List.

Following a hard year for all of us, it is heartening to note that all four recipients are being honoured for the positive contributions they have made to some of the most pressing issues of our time ­– whether that’s championing inclusion, promoting economic equality or safeguarding the British people from the Covid-19 pandemic and other threats.

Two Somervillians have received the OBE. The first is Narmada de Silva (1989, Exp. Psychology), who received an OBE for public service. Narmada has spent much of her career with HM Revenue and Customs, helping the honest majority to get their tax right and making it hard for the dishonest minority to cheat the system. A tax/policy and people leader, she has delivered many significant reforms and is recognised as a role model and champion of inclusion and diversity.

Narmada reflected, ‘The last year has reminded us all of the importance of public service. I was speechless when I learnt of my honour – delighted to be recognised personally, and keen that we also take a moment to recognise the great work of so many of my colleagues’.

Helping the honest majority get their tax right: Narmada de Silva

Also receiving an OBE is Professor Farah Bhatti (1984, Physiol. Sci), the first female consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon in Wales and only the 4th in the UK.  In addition to her clinical expertise, Professor Bhatti is a tireless and profoundly influential advocate for equality, diversity and inclusion within the medical profession – and she receives her OBE in recognition of this excellent work.

Speaking of her honour, Professor Bhatti commented that, ‘It’s a privilege to be a cardiac surgeon and to also work towards creating a fairer environment where everyone can thrive.’  Professor Bhatti added that, ‘I feel overwhelmed at receiving this honour, and would like to dedicate my OBE to my parents, who are the real heroes of my story.’

An image of Professor Bhatti in the operating theatre with a group of women surgeons, all in scrubs

Professor Bhatti advocating for women in surgery

Also receiving an Honour is Dr Rachel Glennerster (1985, PPE), who has been awarded a CMG for Services to International Development. Rachel currently serves as Chief Economist for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), having previously served as Chief Economist at the Department for International Development (DFID) and Executive Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), a research centre at MIT seeking to reduce poverty by ensuring policy is informed by scientific evidence.

With additional spells at HM Treasury and the IMF, Dr Glennerster’s work has spanned reform of the international financial system, debt, promoting innovation, education, health, financial regulation, and women’s empowerment. Dr Glennester is also an author, having co-written books with her Nobel laureate husband, Michael Kremer, among others. As such, her receipt of the CMG (Order of St Michael and St George) ­– which is traditionally awarded to those who have rendered important non-military service in a foreign country or supporting foreign and Commonwealth affairs – seems entirely fitting.

Image of Dr Glennerster at a speaking engagement

Dr Glennerster at a speaking engagement

Finally, Kata Escott (1997, Lit Hum) has received a CB for Public Service. This very high honour is given to Kata in recognition of her contributions within the Cabinet Office, where she worked in support of the Cabinet Secretary (both the late Lord Heywood and his successor, Lord Sedwill) and where she was recalled in support of the Covid-19 effort in the early stages of the pandemic – as well as for her work in the MOD, where she is currently the Strategy Director.

Of her honour, Kata told us that, ‘I am fortunate to have worked on some of the most interesting and challenging issues for government in recent years, alongside some brilliant people. As you can imagine, I am thrilled and truly honoured by the news.’

Kata Escott sits at a table with various high-ranking officials from the MOD, including the DCDC Think Tank Director Major General Darrell Amison and the FCO's Angus Lapsley

Kata working with Defence and FCO colleagues

May we also take a moment to extend our warm congratulations to Lesley Manville, who has been named a CBE for her services to drama and charity. Though not technically a Somervillian, Lesley is a great friend of the College whose continuing success we are delighted to share here.

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