Alumni awarded for excellence

La Trobe has honoured seven eminent alumni for the difference they have made to their community and country. The 2016 La Trobe University Distinguished Alumni Awards recognise alumni for their significant accomplishments in their personal or professional life.

The recipients include:

  • Leading Australian entrepreneur and Swisse CEO Radek Sali
  • Mathematics and code-breaking pioneer Emeritus Professor Jennifer Seberry
  • Former political adviser and diplomat Geoff Walsh AO
  • Young social entrepreneur and women’s rights campaigner Stephanie Woollard.

Chancellor of La Trobe University, Professor Adrienne E Clarke AC, said the Distinguished Alumni Award presented a unique opportunity to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of La Trobe’s most distinguished alumni.

“Over a 48-year history, only 67 La Trobe alumni have received this award,” Professor Clarke said.

“The La Trobe Alumni Award is one of the highest honours bestowed by the University. La Trobe is a university renowned for its excellence in education and research, its social responsibility and its diversity, and this year’s group of award recipients reflect this diversity.

Young Achiever Award

Stephanie Woollard founded Seven Women, a grass-roots social enterprise, in 2006 when she was a student at La Trobe University, after meeting seven marginalised and isolated women in Nepal. The organisation has now grown to four centres in Nepal, which have trained and employed over 5000 women. In 2011 Stephanie established Hands on Development, which runs study tours to Nepal. Stephanie has plans to repeat the successful Seven Women model in regional Australia with disempowered communities.

Dr Simon McIlroy is a young researcher who is already considered an expert in the field of microbiology of wastewater treatment systems. Currently based at Aalborg University, Denmark, Simon has dedicated his research career to the study of the microbiology of wastewater treatment systems and also bioenergy systems.

Distinguished Alumni Award

Sandra Nicholson had a decorated 35 year career with Victoria Police, and was recognised with an Australian Police Medal in 2004 and was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2008. At the time of retiring in 2010, Sandra was the highest ranking woman in Victoria Police.

Sandra has been a board member at The Youth Junction Incorporated and currently chairs the Westgate Branch Committee of the Blue Ribbon Foundation. She is also the National Co-convenor of an international female crime writers’/readers’ organisation, Sisters in Crime.

Clare Pullar MACE is a highly regarded and respected leader in the field of educational philanthropy in both tertiary and secondary sectors throughout Australia and Internationally. Throughout her career, Clare has made contributions to policy settings around philanthropy and contributed to international publications and conferences on educational philanthropy. This year, Clare was appointed Adjunct Professor in Practice in Philanthropy at the University of Queensland and joined US‑based Marts&Lundy as senior consultant; she is just the second Australian to be invited to join the global philanthropy advising firm.

Radek Sali has been an integral part of the Swisse story since he joined the company in 2005 and having assumed the role of CEO eight years ago. Swisse is a leading Australian wellness brand that prides itself on delivering premium quality natural health and wellbeing products. Radek has ensured Swisse is now one of Australia’s most recognisable and fastest growing companies. In 2012 Swisse was named the ‘Most Successful Business of the Year’ in the prestigious 2012 BRW Private Business Awards. Radek was also recognised as the GQ Businessman of the Year. This year, Radek was named as an EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 finalist.

Emeritus Professor Jennifer Seberry is known as a pioneer in mathematics, cryptology and computer science, and was the first woman and first mathematician to complete a PhD at La Trobe University in 1971. Jennifer quickly achieved global recognition for her discoveries in areas of Hadamard matrices. She also co-invented a whole new area of Discrete Mathematics and went on to become the first woman reader in combinatorial mathematics in Australia.  She is also the first – and only – Australian Fellow of the International Association for Cryptologic Research. Jennifer retired from her 23-year tenure at the University of Wollongong in July 2015.

Geoff Walsh AO has built an impressive career spanning politics, government, the media and business, including roles at BHP Billiton as Special Adviser to the CEO and as Director of Public Affairs. Geoff also served at the International Labour Organisation in the United Nations Office in Geneva and as the Australian Consul-General to Hong Kong. Geoff was National Secretary of the Australian Labor Party (2000-2003) and a Senior Adviser to Australian Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. He served as Chief of Staff to Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and held a senior advisory position for Victorian Premier John Brumby.

Geoff continues to be on the Board of Obesity Australia and has served on the Boards of Andrology Australia and the Western Bulldogs Football Club and on the Council of La Trobe University.

In June 2005 Geoff was awarded an AO in the Order of Australia for service to politics, tertiary education and promoting closer ties between Australia and Hong Kong.

Professor Clarke said that La Trobe University was proud to have provided each award recipient with a foundation for their success and contribution not only to their professional

2016 award recipients

Young Achiever Award:

  • Dr Simon McIlroy, PhD (Applied Science) (Pharmacy) 2011
  • Stephanie Woollard, Bachelor of International Development 2011

Distinguished Alumni:

  • Sandra Nicholson, Bachelor of Arts (Art History) 1982
  • Clare Pullar MACE, Bachelor of Arts (History) 1972, Diploma of Education 1973
  • Radek Sali, Bachelor of Arts (Cinema Studies) 1997
  • Emeritus Professor Jennifer Seberry, PhD Computational Mathematics 1971
  • Geoff Walsh AO, Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) 1974

Photo: (Left to right) Adrienne E Clarke AC; Emeritus Professor Jennifer Seberry; Geoff Walsh AO; Stephanie Woollard; Kristy McIlroy (on behalf of Dr Simon McIlroy); Sandra Nicholson; Clare Pullar MACE; Radek Sali; Professor John Dewar

Media: Briena Barrett 0432 566 014