Portal Trust people

Ambassadors and Special Advisors

CPD 2021 photo credit Into Film

As well as our team of dedicated staff and our Board of Governors, we are privileged to be supported by a number of expert partners through our Ambassador and Special Advisor roles.


Special Advisors

We have seven Special Advisors with specific areas expertise who contribute to our strategic aims and advise us on best practice.

Baroness Sandip Verma


A highly influential, global facing business leader, she has extensive Chair and Committee experience. Since entering the House of Lords in 2006, Baroness Sandip Verma has held several key Ministerial appointments, she has had an active and advisory role in policy formation and development. With a transformational background, Baroness Sandip Verma is both strategic and where necessary hands on, adept at simplifying complex issues.


2006 to 2010: Opposition Whip and Lords Spokesperson for the Departments of Education, Health and Welfare and Pensions.
2010 to 2012: Government Whip and Lords Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, International Development and the Government Equalities Office.
2012 to 2015: Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
2015 to 2016: Minister for the Department of International Development.

2016 to current: Non Ministerial Role in the Lords
Chairman of Lords European External Affairs Committee
Member of the Lords EU Select Committee

2016 to Current: Non parliamentary roles
International Chairman on the Steering Committee of IOD, India
2016 (October) to current : Special Adviser to Sir John Cass’s Foundation
2017 – Chairman of Nexus Green – Renewable Energy Solutions business
2017 (May) to current: Independent Non Executive Director of REA (Renewable Energy Association)
2017 (May) to current: Global Chairman of World Wide Generation (WWG)
2017 (May) to current : Advisor on International Board of Amity Universities
Prior to entering the House of Lords, Baroness Verma had a successful career in the SME sector.
1980 to 1997 – She with her husband set up EXIMP ltd, a SME wholesale business of high fashion womenswear.
1985 – Extended the business to include manufacturing of high fashion womenswear supplying national and European markets.
2000 – Created Domiciliary Care Services – a business providing adult social care, working with local authorities, supporting adults within their domestic settings.

A strong and committed advocate of diversity and inclusion, she is involved in a wealth of influential initiatives to create a more inclusive working environment and society as a whole

The Rt. Hon Ruth Kelly

Ruth Kelly joined St Mary’s University, Twickenham as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise in 2015 from HSBC Global Asset Management, where she was Global Head of Client Strategy. Her role at St Mary’s is a senior leadership position with a particular focus on developing research, diversifying the funding base of the University and building stronger partnerships with government and commercial enterprises at a local, national and international level.

Ruth held various roles in Government during her career as MP for Bolton West from 1997 to 2010. These roles included Secretary of State for Transport, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Secretary of State for Education and Skills and Economic and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Ruth has a MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics and spent her early career in the Bank of England and at The Guardian newspaper.

Ruth is a non-executive Director of the Financial Conduct Authority.

Professor David Rhind CBE

David is Chairman of the Nuffield Foundation. Previously he was Vice Chancellor of City, University of London and had close links with livery companies and London-based charities. He has also been Director General of Ordnance Survey, a member of the Court (governing body) of the Bank of England and Chair of the Bank’s Pension Fund, Chairman of the Board of a large NHS hospital and Deputy Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority. David has a BSc from the University of Bristol, a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, a DSc from University of London and eleven honorary DSc degrees from different universities. He was awarded HM Queen the Patron’s Medal, Royal Geographical Society in 1997 and a CBE for services to geographical and social sciences in the New Year’s Honours list 2001. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society and an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy.

Peter Williams CBE

Peter Williams was Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) from March 2002 until his retirement in September 2009. After graduating in English from Exeter University, his early career was in printing and university administration at Surrey and Leicester, where he was Secretary of the University of Leicester Medical School. Following that, he was the Deputy Secretary of the British Academy. During his career at QAA, he worked to make quality assurance a vital tool for professional academics and a means of underpinning the strengths of higher education in the UK.

In addition to his work in the UK, Peter has made many presentations and participated in a number of international quality assurance projects in Europe, South America, the USA, Canada, China, India, the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. In 2005 he was elected President of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). During his time with ENQA, he was one of the principal authors of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.

Peter was until recently Vice-Chair and Chair of the Audit Committee at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and is a Trustee and Chair of the Academic Committee at Richmond, the American International University in London, and Chair of the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education. He was also the Chair of the Accreditation Review Committee of the National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment of Saudi Arabia. In 2014-15 he was Master of The Worshipful Company of Educators. Between 2010 and 2016 he served on the Education Honours Committee.

Peter was appointed as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list in 2009 in recognition of his services to higher education. He is the holder of three honorary doctorates from British and Irish institutions.

Professor the Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield FBA

Lord Peter Hennessy was a journalist for 20 years with positions including leader writer and Whitehall correspondent with The Times and lobby correspondent for The Financial Times and The Economist. He wrote a regular column for The Independent and was a regular presenter of the BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme.

His journalism was defined by a fascination with ‘the hidden wiring of the constitution, and the power of machinery in government’ in Britain. He co-founded the Institute of Contemporary British History in 1986 and joined Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) in 1992 as Professor of Contemporary History. He has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British history at QMUL since 2001.

Lord Hennessy’s analysis of post-war Britain Never Again: Britain 1945-1951, won the Duff Cooper Prize in 1992 and the NCR Book Award in 1993. His study of Britain in the 1950s and the rise of Harold Macmillan, Having it so Good: Britain in the 1950s, won the Orwell Prize for political writing. In 2010, Lord Hennessy was appointed as a non-political crossbench peer, taking the title of Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield. He continues to make regular contributions to the press, radio and television.

Colleen Harris MVO, DL

Diversity Consultant

With more than a 30-year track record of high-level experience, including senior appointments in the Prime Minister’s Office and a Member of HRH The Prince of Wales’s Household, Colleen has also held high profile senior in-house roles in key sectors – in particular, in equality, race-relations, career coaching, recruitment, public relations, and media management. Specialist thinking in a range of related areas, includes engaging hard-to-reach groups and diversity and inclusion policy. This is complemented by trusteeships in the arts, health and the Greater London Lieutenancy where she is Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Wandsworth and Executive Chair of the Lieutenancy.

​Colleen trained as a teacher and supports projects that support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their potential, such as Ebony Horse Club in Brixton and Chineke! a Foundation established to provide career opportunities for young Black, Asian and Minority classical musicians in the UK.

Colleen is a former winner of Woman of the Year and listed as one of the UK’s most Powerful Black Women and listed in the Top 100 BAME Business Leaders.

Professor Graeme Atherton

Trust’s Special Adviser on Levelling Up and Widening Participation

Professor Graeme Atherton

Professor Graeme Atherton is Director of the Centre of Inequality and Levelling Up (CELUP) at the University of West London, leads the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) which is the UK professional organisation for access & equity in higher education (HE) with over 100 universities as members and has also founded World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED). From 2012 to 2021 he also led AccessHE a network of over 200 schools, colleges and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), working together in London to extend access to higher education (HE). He is a trustee of the National Union of Students (NUS) and holds visiting professorships at the Centre for Higher Education Research, Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur and Amity University London. He has produced over 200 publications and conference papers.


We have four Ambassadors who give their time freely to help spread the word about our work and advise us on best practice.

Helen Meixner CMG

Until her retirement Helen Meixner worked for the British Council. She finished her career as Regional Director for South East Europe and Director Romania, based in Bucharest. Born in Australia, Helen has a degree in History from the University of Queensland. After retiring she completed an MA with distinction in South-East European Studies at University College London. She has been a magistrate, Chair of Governors of Langford Primary School in Hammersmith and Fulham, and Chair of Book Aid International; she was a governor of the governing body of Sir John Cass and Red Coat Church of England Secondary School until December 2016. In 2001 Helen was awarded a CMG for services to overseas cultural relations. Helen Meixner was the Chairman of the Grants Committee of The Portal Trust (formerly Sir John Cass's Foundation) and is now an Ambassador.

Graham Cole OBE

Having entered the entertainment industry in 1974, I have been fortunate

to have a successful career which has covered all genre of my beloved profession. Theatre has been dominant, but a spell in uniform playing PC Tony Stamp on ITV in The BIll for over 20 years inspired so much more!

Over 30 years with Childline/NSPCC, coveted my relationship with our Police service, continuing to support many initiatives and I am honoured to be a member of NARPO.

I am an Ambassador for both Voluntary Police Cadets and the blue light charity PTDS 999 and also for London and south east scouting. I held the position of King Rat of The Grand Order of Water Rats and am a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Carmen. I love my City of London and am very proud to have been asked to become an Ambassador to The Portal Trust (formerly Sir John Cass's Foundation) and was honoured to receive an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen.

I look forward to the next chapter?

Anton Chambers

Anton was appointed as an Ambassador in March 2021 and has a passion for improving the academic standards and access to quality employment opportunities for children and young people in inner- City London; he serves as a Governor of Bow School and previously led Clifford Chance LLP’s pro Bono relationship with The Difference , an educational charity which exists to improve the life-outcomes of the most vulnerable children by raising the status and expertise of those who educate them.

Anton was born and raised in Tower Hamlets and educated at Bow School and Tower Hamlets College (now New City College, Tower Hamlets) before studying law at the University of Cambridge. Anton is an asset finance lawyer and Partner at international law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Kevin Everett – Treasurer Emeritus

Dr Kevin Everett

Kevin Everett served on the Board of The Portal Trust (formerly Sir John Cass’s Foundation) until January 2019 and was the Treasurer and Chairman of the Board from 2007 until 31st July 2018. Owing to Kevin’s distinguished and longstanding service to the Foundation amounting to nearly three decades, the Board unanimously decided to honour him with the title, Treasurer Emeritus.

Kevin is a Business/Education Advisor having previously served as a Chief Executive of a City law firm, and as a Director on a number of Boards both commercial and not for profit. As a philanthropist Kevin has during the past 25 years played a leading role in numerous charities, educational institutions, and national and London-wide public bodies.