Skip to main content

Alumni achievement awards celebrate a diversity of success

7 April 2016

The University of Sydney will celebrate the ideas, leadership and dedication of our diverse community when we recognise the work of an artist, a scientist, a musician, an anaesthetist, a physiotherapist and an entrepreneur at our Alumni Awards this month.

From fighting climate change and improving hospital practices in developing countries, to setting up an orchestra for young musicians and using art to highlight the plight of refugees, this year's award winners are making an impact across many parts of society.

Scientist Dr Tom Beer, physiotherapist Professor Roberta Shepherd, artist and activist Ben Quilty, entrepreneur Craig Barratt, anaesthetist Dr Haydn Perndt AM and musician Toby Thatcher will be recognised for their achievements both in Australia and overseas, at a ceremony in the Great Hall on 19 April.

This year's Alumni Achievement Awards will recognise two additional graduates, in the new categories of Cultural Contribution, and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They join International Achievement, Professional Achievement, Outstanding Achievements of Young Alumni and Service to Humanity.

The ceremony on 19 April will also recognise the academic excellence and contribution to the University and the community of the 18 most outstanding recent graduates as our Graduate Medal finalists. The six medal winners will be announced on the night.

Ben Quilty (BVA ’96)

Alumni Award for Cultural Contribution

Ben Quilty is an artist and activist in equal measure. His more public achievements, like his Archibald Prize winning portrait of artist, Margaret Olley, and being shortlisted for an Australian of the Year Award, happen alongside more personal projects. He uses his art to illuminate the experiences of the world’s refugees and has travelled to Afghanistan as the Australian War Memorial’s official war artist. Ben has also committed himself to honouring the true history of Aboriginal Australians.

Craig Barratt (BSc ’83 BE (Electrical) ’85)

Alumni Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Craig Barratt is Senior Vice-President and head of Google’s Access division. He believes technology can improve lives and he is currently working to provide free wi-fi at up to 400 railway stations across India. His career started at a Silicon Valley start-up which lead to high profile leadership roles across the technology industry. The Wall Street Journal once called him “a geek’s geek” and he became known as one of the business pioneers of wi-fi technology.

Tom Beer (BSc ’67)

Alumni Award for International Achievement

Dr Tom Beer is president of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), fostering research and collaboration between Earth scientists from 68 countries. Joining the CSIRO in 1986 as the head of bushfire meteorology gave his research a greater focus on climate change. His work as the lead author for an expert panel advising the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), led to a joint Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 to the IPCC, with former US presidential candidate Al Gore.

Roberta Shepherd (DipPhty ’56 DHlthSc (honoris causa) ’16)

Alumni Award for Professional Achievement

Professor Roberta Shepherd is a world leader in physiotherapy education, research and practice, and has contributed to the field for over 50 years. She was the Foundation Professor of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney and in 1974, published the first textbook on physiotherapy in paediatrics. Her collaborations with students and colleagues have led to scholarly publications in many languages, including the pioneering work with Dr Janet Carr, Neurological Rehabilitation: Optimizing Motor Performance.

Haydn Perndt AM (MBBS ’77)

Alumni Award for Service to Humanity

Dr Haydn Perndt AM is an anaesthetist who has dedicated himself to improving standards of surgery and anaesthesia in developing countries. He has worked in conflict zones with the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières, and taught in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. His key role in establishing a training program in Fiji has seen anaesthesia specialists from every Pacific island receive training. The program has now been self-sufficient for 10 years.

Toby Thatcher (BMus(Perf) ’12)

Outstanding Achievements of Young Alumni Award

Just 18 months after graduating with an MA in Oboe Performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Toby Thatcher became assistant conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Pursuing his ambition to conduct, he was a joint recipient of the inaugural Neema Järvi Prize, and won third at the 2015 Georg Solti International Conducting Competition. The Ensemble Eroica, which he began, is now a leading orchestra for young classical musicians in the UK.