Dr Kathryn Riddle’s portrait for Firth Hall is unveiled at a special ceremony


Dr Kathryn Riddle, a former Pro-Chancellor and Law lecturer at our University, was the first woman to hold the post of Chair of the University Council. She’s now the second inspirational woman to have her portrait hung in Firth Hall.

On 4 October 2017 people from across the University were joined by Kathryn’s family, friends and former colleagues in Firth Hall to celebrate the unveiling of Kathryn’s portrait. It was also an opportunity to recognise her many achievements throughout her career at the University and outside.

The oil canvas of Kathryn was painted by Keith Robinson, the artist behind the portrait of our Nobel prize-winning Chemist Sir Hans Krebs, which hangs in the entrance to Firth Court. The painting took three months to complete and was produced from one sitting and a series of photographs.

Kathryn’s portrait joins that of eminent physicist Emeritus Professor Gillian Gehring, whose image was commissioned and hung in Firth Hall in 2015. Both commissions have been made possible through the ‘Portrait of a Woman’ initiative launched by our former Director of Human Resources, Rosie Valerio. Rosie generously donated her own retirement collection to this initiative to help increase the visual representation of women across our University.

At the ceremony Kathryn and Professor Sir Keith Burnett, our President and Vice-Chancellor, unveiled the portrait together in front of an audience of colleagues and peers.

Sir Keith spoke of Kathryn’s career and the difference she has made in Sheffield and beyond:

“I am delighted to honour Kathryn. She is an extraordinary woman who has been fundamental to the success of the University. As well as her work as the first female Chair of Council at the University, she has done so much for the city and the region.

“I would consider Kathryn not only a wise counsellor and able leader but a true friend. It therefore gives me the greatest delight to unveil this very special portrait.”

Kathryn said of her portrait: “I am overwhelmed, grateful and thrilled to be the second female to have my portrait hung in Firth Hall.

Kathryn is an extraordinary woman who has been fundamental to the success of the University.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett

“I came to the University of Sheffield as an undergraduate in 1964 and many years later went on to become the first female Chair of University Council. This was something I was immensely proud of and it is wonderful that through this portrait I will be part of this University forever.

“I would like to thank the artist for not only his expertise with the brush but also his patience with a rather nervous subject.

“I want to express my gratitude to Rosie Valerio, whose brilliant idea it was, and Professor Sir Keith Burnett for enabling the portrait initiative. We now have a hall that features both heroes and heroines.”


Artist Keith Robinson has included key details in the portrait to represent 50 years of Kathryn’s career. You can see her University squash racquet, her University Officers’ Training Corps Honorary Colonel’s hat, a sword representing her appointment as High Sheriff of South Yorkshire and most prominently her Pro-Chancellor cap, resting on her lap.

Kathryn sits against a backdrop of the Arts Tower, representing the University and the white rose of Yorkshire and Humber River portraying her role as former Chair of the NHS for the North of England

Of his work, the artist commented:

“It is a real honour for my painting to sit in such an esteemed place.

“This was a leap of faith for Kathyrn and I am pleased that she trusted me. I hope people will enjoy the result”

Rosie Valerio, former Director of Human Resources, and Emeritus Professor Gillian Gehring also attended the event to celebrate Kathryn’s achievements and the Portrait of a Woman prize.

Gillian, whose portrait already hangs in Firth Hall said:

“I’m deliKathryn, Sir Keith and Keith Robinsonghted that I’m no longer the only women in Firth Hall and I hope there will be many more to come”

Rosie said of her initiative:

“I’m thrilled that the Portrait of a Woman prize is still going strong, 6 years on. Kathryn is a most eminent choice for the second portrait”

The event also celebrated the work of other dedicated and inspirational female colleagues at the University by displaying their photos and achievements in an exhibition in Firth Hall.

Kathryn’s portrait will be available for all to see in Firth Hall later this year.

What is the Portrait of a Woman initiative?

Kathryn and RosieOur University is marked by the contribution of thousands of remarkable women staff and students. Some of them are familiar, such as the aviator Amy Johnson and the first British astronaut Helen Sharman. However, there are many more women whose work and lives helped to create our University whose contribution is not recognised on our walls or in our paintings.

Our former Director of Human Resources, Rosie Valerio, identified this as an opportunity and, upon her retirement in 2011, decided to use the generous donations by colleagues to her retirement collection to establish the Portrait of a Woman Prize.

Rosie was determined that the images of women should find a place of honour in the University she had served and loves, so the Portrait of a Woman project began with University staff being asked to nominate current or former female colleagues whose portrait they would like to see hung in Firth Hall.

Portrait of a Woman has enabled staff and students to nominate outstanding female colleagues for this prize. Professional photos of the inspirational women nominated were taken for an exhibition displayed across campus. The two prize winners Emeritus Professor Gillian Gehring and Dr Kathryn Riddle were selected by a commissioning panel of University staff and external representatives.

Kathryn’s inspirational career

Kathryn’s dedicated public service has had a lasting and positive effect on our University, the city of Sheffield, and the North of England. In recognition of her services to higher education and public health she was awarded an OBE in the 2013 New Year's Honours list.

She was a Pro-Chancellor of the University, as well as a lecturer in Law, and the first woman to hold the post of Chair of University Council, where she ‘personified sound and thoughtful governance.’

She served as a Magistrate on the Sheffield Bench for 40 years, was a High Sheriff of South Yorkshire, and an Honorary Colonel with the University of Sheffield's Officer Training Corps. She is currently a Deputy Lieutenant of South Yorkshire.

As former Chair of the NHS for the North of England, Kathryn supported the health and wellbeing of some fifteen million people. She continues to support health and wellbeing as a patron of Weston Park Cancer Hospital and St Luke’s Hospice, and a Non-Executive board member of Christie Hospital in Manchester.

Kathryn has an unrivalled commitment to quality in the medical and nursing profession, whilst never forgetting the needs and dignity of patients for whom she is a powerful advocate, including having supported Your Voice – a network for patients, carers and supporters relating to mental health.