Alumni Services

Catherine Thomas

Catherine Thomas's love of her home city led to her complete three degrees at Edinburgh, including her PhD. She explains why she then pursued a career in fundraising.


Catherine Thomas


MA History; MSc Historical Research; PhD American History

Year of Graduation 1999; 2000; 2009
Catherine Thomas

Your time at the University

Growing up, I always wanted to go to the University of Edinburgh. I grew up in the city and never wanted to leave. My mum is also an alumna and tutored in the Russian department, and sometimes on school bank holidays my sister and I were put in a spare room with books and snacks while she taught. It seemed so grown up there compared with school. Fortunately, when the time came I was accepted. 

Studying history was a real test of my discipline as there weren’t many class hours and a lot of independent reading. I was able to fit in volunteering for Nightline, the confidential student helpline, as well as part time work, and I think both helped me when it came to starting my career. I had a few summer jobs which helped me work out what I am good at – and the reverse. I learned a huge amount about communicating from working with the public, particularly through my job at the Virgin Megastore on Princes Street. I also met my now-husband, another Edinburgh alumnus, who worked there too. We now have a five-year-old daughter and I would love it if one day she enrolled at the University too.

I use the skills I gained at the University of Edinburgh every single day, from writing, to analysis, to the listening skills I learned at Nightline.

Catherine Thomas

Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University

I started my career as a bookseller, then moved to the non-profit sector where I worked in a range of junior roles before becoming a fundraising manager at Alzheimer Scotland, where I worked for eight years. As a fundraiser it’s my role to inspire people to invest in my colleagues’ vision for a better future, and to do that I need to be able to communicate ideas clearly. I use the skills I gained at the University of Edinburgh every single day, from writing, to analysis, to the listening skills I learned at Nightline. At one point I had ambitions of becoming an academic, and I did a PhD through part time study while working, but I realised that I love fundraising and that’s what I really want to do. 

I have recently joined Aberlour as Head of Partnerships and Philanthropy, raising money to help children, young people and families who need support, because every child deserves the chance to flourish.  It’s incredibly motivating to be part of such an important cause, and to know that I am using my skills to help people and having a great time doing it.

Alumni wisdom

Don’t measure your progress and achievements by other people’s. Focus on what you want to achieve and what you want to get out of life.