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Tales from a time of COVID-19 – 2

Posted on Aug 2

2 min read

Alumni Events & News

Last year we shared short updates from Johnians on how they were adapting to the uncertainty and change brought about by COVID-19. We didn’t expect to be asking similar questions one year on, but it’s been uplifting to hear from a great number of alumni whose lives, although undeniably altered in some way, have continued with a measure of success and opportunity. Find a selection of Johnian stories below, and read more in the Members’ news section of the College annual, The Eagle 2021, which will be published and mailed in October as usual.

Professor Robert Dingwall. Photography: Nottingham Trent University

The sociology of pandemics seemed to be a niche interest twenty years ago but is suddenly in demand

Professor Robert Dingwall (1968) is very busy as a member of several government advisory groups on the science, policy and ethics of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a great deal of media work through print, TV, radio and podcasts, nationally and internationally.

Frank Neale in Greece

Frank Neale (1968) developed a portfolio career after retiring many years ago from a career in private equity/venture capital. He retains a non-executive directorship of a quoted venture capital trust, but mainly he now practises as a Business Coach.

During lockdown Frank switched to online working instead of face-to-face. He works with a mix of chief executives, private equity professionals and pro bono clients in the NHS frontline. He also volunteers for Citizens Advice, taking phone calls from people needing help, and he says that this was the most satisfying work he did last year.

Mark Ellis (1972) has previously had four books of his DCI Frank Merlin series – which feature Merlin, a Scotland Yard detective operating in WW2 London – published by Headline, an imprint of Hachette. The books are also published by Audible.

The third book Merlin At War was nominated for a Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger in 2017. His last book A Death In Mayfair was published in 2019, and the fifth in the series will be out in early 2022.

Mark was recently appointed Treasurer of Gwyl Crime Cymru Festival, Wales’ first international crime literature festival, which is to be based in Aberystwyth.

Find out more on his website:

Mark Ellis at the Hatchards launch Merlin At War, which was nominated for the CWA Historical Dagger in 2017

Dr Joasia Zakrzewski (1994) took part in an Australian Invitational twenty-four-hour running race while stranded in Australia due to COVID-19. She set four Scottish records and one British record, the British one having stood since 1990.

Britt Mayers (2016) graduated from St John’s with a BA in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies during the pandemic in June 2020.

She spent a year doing an MA in International Security at Sciences Po, Paris, working as an analyst for a global firm and as a research assistant.

For the next year, she has received a full scholarship to do an MA in Arab Studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Ahmed Fardin (2018) is now based in Toronto, but just before the pandemic hit he left the UK and established a small sustainable garment manufacturing facility in his home Bangladesh, which is a major ready-made-garment manufacturing hub. He named the facility Circular Cradle (after the Circular Economy and Cradle-to-Cradle Principles) and employs climate refugees who have been displaced from their homes in coastal regions due to events such as floods, cyclones or droughts.

Later in 2020 he teamed up with a zero-waste fashion design start-up out of Harvard (Shelly Xu Design) and they recently won the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition in the social enterprise category, receiving both the grand prize of $75,000 and the Crowd Favourite Award.