Outstanding achievements honoured at the 2016 Alumni Awards

26 April 2016

Artists are a mad bunch, but "we’re all thinkers", said noted artist and activist Ben Quilty (BVA '96) as he accepted his award for Cultural Contribution at the 2016 Alumni Awards last week.

"We came to university and found we were with a group of like-minded people who believed in culture as a way to drive a narrative on things that would make our country a much better place," said the Archibald Prize winner and Australian of the Year nominee.

Speaking in the Great Hall, Mr Quilty thanked University of Sydney staff who had "put up with him", and paid tribute to his fellow graduates who continue to make their mark around the world, including designer Marc Newson, filmmaker Jane Campion and artist Shaun Gladwell.

Alumni Awards were presented to six alumni whose careers have reflected the University values of leadership, dedication and compassion. Graduate Medals were also awarded to recognise the outstanding achievements of six recent graduates.

Accepting her Award for Professional Achievement, Professor Roberta Shepherd (DipPhty '56, DHlthSc (honoris causa) '16) said the University taught her to think.

"I also learned that to question the status quo is often a good idea."

When she arrived at the University in 1952, Professor Shepherd said she was fascinated by science, which – as a female – she had not been able to study at school.

Now a world leader in physiotherapy education, research and practice, Professor Shepherd, with colleague Dr Janet Carr, co-authored the first book on physiotherapy rehabilitation. "Our inspiration came at first from an absence of any textbooks on neurological rehabilitation," she said. "[To teach] you do need textbooks."

Craig Barratt, the head of Google’s Access division, accepted his award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, from Silicon Valley in California.

Mr Barratt said technology was capable of tackling some of the world’s most pressing problems.

"I truly believe that technologies can make a huge impact around climate change, around health, around bringing people out of poverty."

He also spoke of the importance of the mentoring and other learning opportunities he received during his studies at Sydney. "I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the resources available through the University," he said.

Accepting his award for International Achievement, the current President of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics and influential climate researcher, Dr Tom Beer (BSc ’67), defended the role of climate researchers, who he said should be allowed to continue their vital work.

"As a scientist, I can tell you climate change is real," he said. "There is more to know and more to learn about how it will affect Australia, the driest continent on Earth."

The Award for Service to Humanity went to anaesthetist Haydn Perndt AM (MBBS ’77) who has improved surgical outcomes for people in developing countries. The Outstanding Achievements of Young Alumni award went to Toby Thatcher (BMus(Perf) ’12), who was last year appointed assistant conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

Congratulating the award winners, University Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM (BEc ’76) acknowledged the more than 300,000 University graduates who make up our alumni community around the world.

"We will never know all of the great work that is performed by our alumni," she said, "but the Awards enable us to celebrate just some of their achievements."

The University's most outstanding recent graduates also received Graduate Medals for their academic achievements, community service and contribution to the University.

The 2016 Graduate Medal winners included:

  • John C Harsanyi Medal - Ramanan Arampamoorthy
  • Nigel C Barker Medal - Lavinia Chrystal
  • Sister Alison Bush Medal - Mykaela Saunders
  • Convocation Medal - Nina Ubaldi
  • Edmund Barton Medal - Adam Fovent
  • Rita and John Cornforth Medal - Tomonori Hu