7 min read

Alumni Love Stories

Lisa and Andy Hutchinson

Andy and Lisa (née Hearn) were in the same cohort (1989-1993) on the 4-year BEd Primary Teaching course taught at Walsall Campus.

Andy recalls: “We met when I was DJ at a Students’ Union disco. I was chair of the SU RAG Committee and had organised a fundraiser Lisa attended. We clicked instantly: we are each other’s ying and yang. She was quiet, cute, studious and loving and I was loud, like to party and knew everyone. We both love cooking and eating out though!"

Lisa soon became my academic role model, I learned how to learn from her: she’s the most patient person I know and has been very supportive when I’ve continued with my academic studies.

We’ve been together for 31 years and married for 21. Lisa teaches in Shrewsbury at Oxon Primary School where she leads SEND and supporting pupils with additional needs, I joined the University in 2004 and the Primary Teacher Training team at Walsall Campus in 2012.

I’ve since completed a Master’s in Education, my SFHEA and I am currently undertaking an Ed.D looking at effective teaching in primary school mathematics. Lisa is a school placement mentor for our student teachers and often lends her expertise to primary ITT.

As with all relationships we have ups and downs but we remain committed to our relationship and proud of one another’s achievements. We’re most proud of our 18-year-old daughter Eve. She continues to astound us on a daily basis with her intelligence and talents. After nearly 30 years of teaching, we’re both still very passionate and motivated to help people find the best in themselves both personally and academically.

Bec and Dan Cottingham

Dan and Bec Cottingham (née Tibbetts) met aged 16 at Stourbridge College’s Longlands campus, moving on to study BA (Hons) Graphic Communication at the University’s School of Art.

Bec recalls: “At 6ft 5, Dan was pretty difficult to miss. He broke my scissors during our first week working together and after that, it was all over really. When we met he was incredibly quiet and shy, which isn’t so true anymore as he is usually the first one to offer to make a pillock of himself!”

“At University we formed such a strong sense of who we are and what we wanted to do. We learned valuable lessons about how to work with each other, especially when things go horribly wrong. Making each other laugh when the chips are down has certainly helped us overcome some rough times.

We got married seven years to the day we started going out and have two sons Elijah (14) and Noah (11). Elijah was born 15 weeks early, weighing 880g, and spent six months in intensive care, so that was an extremely challenging time.”

Dan adds: “We started Eighty3 together in 2015. “We often get told how strange it is that we can work together every day and not kill one another, but I feel so lucky that I get to spend every day working, and building a business with, my best friend in the world. I’m extremely proud that we’ve been able to create this thing (Eighty3) that allows us to give opportunities to others that we never had.

The Eighty3 Family is also something that we are immensely proud of – the network of people that worked, or have worked, for us and that we work with on a regular basis.”

Sharon and Gary Butler

Gary and Sharon (née Spooner), both studied at the University, and met when Sharon was an administrative assistant in the-then School of Languages and European Studies (SLES). Gary worked in Finance, liaising with Sharon. They married in 2003.

Sharon remembers: “Gary often walked through our office – he was helpful, friendly and funny but always the consummate professional. We were set up by a mutual colleague: I was a little shocked when he called and we agreed to a date.”

Gary says: “The Polytechnic was extremely important to me: not knowing what I wanted to really do after my A-levels, I accepted a BTEC course, transferring on to a degree course. I progressed through various jobs in finance until 2018 when I was appointed chief financial officer at the University.

Gary claims to have converted Sharon into a fan of the Psychedelic Furs, who he’s followed since 1979. He’s also an avid Stoke City fan, and they’ve travelled far and wide to matches, including an FA Cup Final.

As a family, they’ve seen both of Sharon’s daughters graduate from the University, and were pleased to put a major health scare for Gary – resulting in major heart surgery in 2007 – behind them. Looking to the future, Sharon says: “My long-term dream is to have a place in the sun somewhere to spend quality time with each other and our family.”

Gary concludes: “I hope to do some charity work in the future. Whilst at the University I spent an amazing week in Nepal seeing how a CIDT project had transformed the lives of local communities. My ambition is to return to Nepal and to work in a local community to help them."