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University of Sunderland Chancellor Leanne Cahill dressed in a ceremonial gown and smiling towards the camera

Chancellor, 2023 – present

Leanne Cahill, CEO of retail company Bravissimo and Sunderland graduate, was appointed as the University’s Chancellor in November 2023.

Born and raised in Sunderland, Leanne began her career on the shopfloor as a Marks & Spencer management trainee before specialising in finance. She has since held a wide range of roles at Legal & General, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Travelex.

Leanne joined Bravissimo in October 2017 as finance director. She was promoted to managing director in September 2018, becoming chief executive officer in December 2020. In 2023 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from the University of Sunderland.

Speaking about her appointment as Chancellor, Leanne said: “I am very proud to be born and raised in Sunderland, and to be a graduate of the University of Sunderland.

“I studied at Sunderland for a degree to unlock a career in business. On graduation, I took away that degree and so much more – I also built the skills, experience and confidence to give me a life changing start.

“The prospect of being Chancellor here at Sunderland and playing a part in that growth of a new generation of students is so exciting to me.

“With my background and now as an employer and a CEO, I hope that I can bring something relevant back to the University and do the role justice.

“It is an absolute honour to be asked, and I can’t wait to get started.”