THE DIARY: Rosie’s parting shot...with Colin Drury

Rosie Valerio discusses her portrait with photographer Anton Want at the opening of the exhibition in Firth Hall at Sheffield University
Rosie Valerio discusses her portrait with photographer Anton Want at the opening of the exhibition in Firth Hall at Sheffield University
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THEIR achievements are considerable, many and varied.

Micheline Beaulieu was the first female pro-vice chancellor of Sheffield University. Maureen Carroll has directed archeological digs at world-famous Pompeii. Pam Enderby received an MBE for services to speech therapy. And Hilda Betts...well, Hilda makes a cracking cup of tea.

But this quartet - and another two dozen more women besides - have one thing in common.

They have all been hand-picked to appear in a new exhibition celebrating the incredible successes of female staff at Sheffield University.

The 28 will have their portraits displayed around campus, beginning this week with a prominent place in Firth Hall, before a possible city centre exhibition in 2013.

The message, it seems, is behind every great university are several great women.

And among those great women are professors, doctors, lecturers, directors and, of course Hilda, the student experience office manager who has become renowned for her sterling Sheffield brews.

“The University is about people, including those rarely in the limelight,” says Rosie Valerio, the former human resources director behind the project. “Men have traditionally been more celebrated and this project is about addressing that.”

It came about because Rosie retired this summer.

Instead of a gift, the 61-year-old of Nether Green asked for a collection to be put towards this exhibition.

“Well,” she notes, “it beats getting a watch.”

All 6,000 members of staff were asked to nominate deserving candidates with a steering group then picking a final 28.

Barnsley-based fine art photographer Anton Want was then commissioned to portrait the ladies.

“How was it?” he asks at today’s opening event. “Quite intimidating actually. These people have achieved so much. They have a real presence.”

It’s a view vice-chancellor Professor Keith Burnett echoes.

“I find it quite moving,” he says. “There’s almost a tingle in the back of my neck.”

He might want to have that looked at. For now, though, few would doubt it’s an exciting exhibition.

“These women have made not only Sheffield but the entire world a better place, really,” says Rosie. “When you’re stood in a room and their pictures are looking at you, I think that is a powerful thing. I think it can be inspiring.”