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Selection as Clare College Alumnus of the Year 2014


Posted 23 October 2013 updated 7 April 2016.

For the last five years, Clare College Cambridge has selected an "Alumnus of the Year." As stated on the Clare alumni website, the award is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of alumni who have made outstanding contributions to society through:

The page linked above lists all of the recipients of this award, with their matriculation year (the year they went up to Clare) given in brackets. Their names are linked to a page with more details about them, and apart from the first those pages also have a sound or video recording of the address they gave the second year students.

The process is that every alumnus can send in a nomination. The Alumni Council then votes to select a winner. I joined the Alumni Council in December 2011 as the represenatative for my year group (1969).

This year's process

Several months ago, Clare College invited all alumni to send in nominations. I nominated someone, and a few weeks later the Clare asked me to supply a brief write-up explaining why I considered my nominee suitable for election.

Shortly after that, Clare emailed to inform me that I had been nominated, and asking if I was willing to have my name go forward. I gave my consent.

In late August as a member of the Alumni Council, I received the papers for the Alumni Council meeting to be held on 21 September 2013. The pack included the names and brief profiles of three nominees. I was listed, as expected, but I was surprised to find that the person I had nominated was not included. I can only conclude that my nominee must have declined to have their name go forward.

The nomination information for me

Nominee:  Mohammed Amin (1969)

For 33 years Amin practiced as a tax advisor, most recently spending 19 years as a tax partner in Price Waterhouse, now PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He retired from this lucrative position in 2009 so he could focus on ‘giving back’ to the community by writing, speaking, informal mentoring and active involvement in a number of charitable organisations. He is a dedicated member of over a dozen charitable groups and has worked tirelessly to foster understanding, friendship and trust amongst diverse communities in the UK.  Through his involvement with The Dialogue Society, for example, he has helped to advance social cohesion by connecting communities through dialogue. In additional to his involvement in social initiatives, he provides financial advice on a pro bono basis.Throughout his career and following his retirement, Amin has used the benefits afforded to him to improve the lives and hopes of others.

My decision on how to vote

I have no hesitation confessing that I wanted to win. However it seemed wrong to simply vote for myself because I wanted to win!

Accordingly, I decided to read all three profiles (mine and the two others) setting aside all the personal knowledge I had about myself. I felt a bit dissatisfied with the written profile (which had no input from me) as I felt it could have been stronger. For example, it listed only one organisation, "The Dialogue Society" while omitting others to which I have devoted far more time. I do not know who nominated me and have not tried to find out.

One of the other profiles appeared more compelling, so I voted for that person. As that profile appeared more compelling to me than my own, I assumed that others would reach the same decision.

The outcome

A few days before the Alumni Council meeting, I received an email from Clare to inform me that I had been chosen as Alumnus of the Year. The formal announcement was made part way through the Alumni Council meeting. There were no other formalities.

From my PwC days, I am conscious of the need to properly manage corporate communications. Accordingly apart from my wife, I did not share the news until Clare had made its own public announcment. On 8 October 2013 Clare issued the tweet embedded below, which linked to a page profiling me. Twitter is an ideal medium for such broadcast announcements.

Meet our new Alumnus of the Year @Mohammed_Amin

— Clare College (@ClareCollege) October 8, 2013

Accordingly I was then able to share the news by issuing my own tweet.

@ClareCollege: Meet our new Alumnus of the Year @Mohammed_Amin” I am absolutely delighted to receive this honour.

— Mohammed Amin (@Mohammed_Amin) October 8, 2013

Why this matters so much to me

After growing up in the slums of Manchester, attending Clare changed my life. Leaving aside purely family matters such as getting married and the births of my children, two achievements in my life dwarf all of the others:

Accordingly I am "over the moon" to have been given this honour.

What happens next

As stated on Alumnus of the Year page, "The award-winner is invited to accept the award and bronze Alumnus of the Year statue at the Half-Way Hall dinner, for second-year undergraduates, where he or she will also make the keynote address." As that dinner is half way through the second year, it will also be half way through their time as undergraduates as most Clare students read for three-year degrees.

The talk was given on 10 February 2014. See below.

Update - Celebratory dinner hosted by Lord Sheikh

On 5 November 2013 Lord Sheikh hosted a celebratory dinner for me. My impromptu speech alllowed me to share some very personal thoughts. It can be watched on the page "How attending Cambridge changed my life".

Update - Alumnus of the Year address

On 10 February 2014 I received the award trophy to hold for a year and addressed the second year students at Clare College. You can watch my Alumnus of the Year speech or read the transcript.

Update - Clare News Summer 2014 article

When I visited Clare College on 10 February 2014 to give my Alumnus of the Year speech, I was interviewed by one of the students, Miss Mee Young Yoon. That interview was eventually published in the Summer 2014 edition of Clare News in the section on Alumni News.


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