The Distinguished Alumni Award honours La Trobe alumni who have demonstrated outstanding personal and professional achievements, and who have shown significant service to their communities.
This year’s recipients include a leading international diplomat, a ground-breaking stem cell researcher, a Silicon Valley engineer and a passionate advocate for children's rights.
Chancellor of La Trobe University, Professor Richard Larkins AO, said the Distinguished Alumni Award was one of the highest honours bestowed by the University.
“Over our 50-year history, just 70 alumni have received this award,” Professor Larkins said. “This year’s recipients reflect the very best of La Trobe – our diversity, our excellence, and our commitment to making a difference.”
The 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients were announced during World La Trobe Week – a celebration of the proud cultural diversity that has come to define the University over the past 50 years. As part of the week’s celebrations, La Trobe alumni in eight international cities came together to celebrate La Trobe’s 50th anniversary.
This year’s recipients represent La Trobe’s global reach, as they live and work in Australia, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and the United States.
2017 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients
Tan Sri Ghazzali Sheikh Abdul Khalid is one of Malaysia’s top foreign policy and political advisors. He has served as an advisor to two Prime Ministers and has held a number of prominent diplomatic roles, including Ambassador of Malaysia to the United States, Deputy Secretary General at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, High Commissioner to Zimbabwe and Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York. Tan Sri Ghazzali is now Chairman of the Axiata Foundation, Chairman of Robi (Axiata Group’s Bangladesh operations), and Malaysia advisor at BowerGroupAsia.
Dr Huizhen Sheng is a pioneer in the field of stem cell research. She received her PhD in developmental biology from La Trobe University in 1986. Professor Sheng’s impressive PhD work led to her being awarded a post-doctoral fellowship in Washington D.C at the National Institutes of Health – the largest biomedical research agency in the world. There she embarked on research that led to early discoveries on the isolation of stem cells and the capability of growing organs out of stem cells. She was later invited to return to China to establish a stem cell lab at the Jiaotong University School of Medicine.
Dr Chris Dick is among Australia’s trailblazing engineers in Silicon Valley. He holds both a Bachelor degree and a PhD from La Trobe University in the areas of computer science and electronic engineering. He was a lecturer in Electronic Engineering at La Trobe for 12 years, teaching in signal processing, computer architecture and other engineering disciplines. Chris is an Engineering Fellow and Chief Digital Signal Processing Architect at Xilinx – an American tech company based in San Jose. Chris is one of only six Fellows at Xilinx, one of the highest-ranking technical staffers in the company.
Sandie de Wolf AM is a passionate advocate for the welfare of vulnerable children, young people, women and families. She is CEO of Berry Street – Victoria’s largest independent child and family services organisation. Sandie graduated from La Trobe with a Master of Social Work in 1989. She has become an expert in her field – sitting on a number of federal and state ministerial committees and influencing change in both policy and practice.
Brenda Lim Bee Khim has shown extraordinary dedication to the nursing profession for close to three decades. She is head of the nursing department at Singapore’s National Skin Centre. As a pioneering member of the Association of Diabetes Educators, she has led collaborations with health professionals and researchers to improve standards of diabetes care and education in the region. As well as her work in diabetes education, Brenda has also elevated the standards of dermatology nursing through research and assessments. She set up the Dermatology Nurses Chapter in Singapore, once again proving the importance of collaboration in improving patient care.
Professor Jianjun Han is Editor in Chief of the Chinese Practice Journal, a key resource for medical practitioners, health researchers and policy-makers in China and abroad. Professor Han has made significant progress in developing China’s academic and training ties with the US, UK and Australia through Universities such as La Trobe. His work has shown a deep commitment to advancing community health in China.
Young Achiever Award
Jess Smith is Talent Operations Coordinator at AFL Victoria, and a passionate advocate for women in sport. She completed a Bachelor of Sports Management at La Trobe in 2007, and in her short career so far she has become a trailblazer for women’s sport. Jess has helped to carve out new opportunities for women by creating the VFL Women’s competition, and has also worked with AFL Victoria staff to integrate the men’s and women’s competitions.
My Nguyen is the International Communications Manager at ANZ, Vietnam. ANZ recruited My after she graduated from La Trobe University with a Bachelor of Business. At the age of 30, My became the youngest member of the ANZ Vietnam Board of Management team. She leads a financial literacy program, helping people in the region improve their financial skills and knowledge.