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Entrepreneurialism, advocacy and leadership rewarded at annual Alumni Awards dinner

Four distinguished University of Wollongong alumni will be honoured at this year’s Alumni Awards dinner on 8 October. Being recognised in 2015 for their professional achievements and social impact are:

  • Mr Sunil Chandra (Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering) 1995), Vice President at Google Inc., responsible for hiring and staff services;
  • Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey (PhD Education 2009 and Graduate Certificate in Business Coaching 2011), an advocate of women’s leadership and founder of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW);
  • Professor Alex Frino (Bachelor of Commerce (Accountancy) 1989 and Masters of Commerce (Honours) (Accountancy) 1991), an authority on security market supervision and integrity;
  • and a young female entrepreneur, Ms Kimberley Abbott (Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science) 2012), founder and CEO of the social business Roka Jewellery and Bid Manager at Thales Australia.

Additionally, four long serving and dedicated members of the UOW community will be honoured as Fellows.

This year’s Fellows are: Mr Pat Farrar, one of the driving forces behind the Illawarra Committee for International Students; Associate Professor Pauline Lysaght, a foundation member of the team responsible for the design of the Early Start Initiative; community leader and philanthropist Mr Richard Miller; and poet and teacher Mr Ron Pretty AM.

The University’s annual Alumni Awards recognise and celebrate the personal and professional achievements of UOW graduates worldwide. Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE said it is an honour to host so many accomplished alumni and representatives of the University of Wollongong, especially during the University’s 40th year since independence.

“So many alumni and members of the UOW community have a positive and lasting impact on the world, I am especially proud though of those we are formally recognising in 2015. They’ve all, in their own unique way, contributed to UOW’s success over the past four decades.”

The Governor of NSW, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC, and Chancellor of UOW, Ms Jillian Broadbent AO, past UOW Senior Executive, including past Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors, parliamentarians and community leaders will be among the estimated 400 guests to attend the gala dinner.

Event details
Fellowship and Alumni Awards dinner, University Hall, 8 October 2015, from 5.45 pm

2015 Alumni award Winners

Alumni Award for Professional Excellence

Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering) 1995

Mr Sunil Chandra has held positions at some of the world’s largest and most influential organisations, from Coopers & Lybrand to McKinsey and Barclays and, finally, Google. At Google, Mr Chandra heads Google’s global Staffing and Operations function, which is responsible for hiring more than 10,000 people each year (from more than three million applicants) and sustaining a strong organisational culture for 55,000 employees worldwide.

Mr Chandra joined Google in 2007 and has earned a reputation for relentless improvement and technological innovation. Through his vision, quiet and steady leadership, and commitment to each person’s success, he has forged a group that many regard as the highest performing recruiting organisation on the planet, and provides a range of services to Googlers (Google employees) at a level unsurpassed by most comparable firms. Beyond that, he is an inspired technologist and product leader, having led the development of some of the most effective and creative people systems. 

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Alumni Award for Social Impact

PhD Education 2009 and Graduate Certificate in Business Coaching 2011

Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey is an advocate of women’s leadership and the founder of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (ACLW). Since it was founded in August 2000, ACLW has helped emerging leaders empower and energise current and emerging women leaders through research and focussed resources, and by coaching and mentoring women on professional and personal advancement.

ACLW’s Flagship Awards Program, including the Sustaining Women’s Empowerment in Communities and Organisations Award, began in 2006. They are judged by eminent women and men, supported by politicians, and have attracted commercial sponsorships from major organisations such as ANZ, Australia Post, and NRMA. After completing her PhD at this University, she lectured in both Management and Education. From 2012 to 2014, she was an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute for Business Wellbeing at UOW. She is currently an Adjunct Professor of The Cairns Institute at James Cook University and at Notre Dame University, Sydney. 

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Alumni Award for Research and Innovation

Bachelor of Commerce (Accountancy) 1989 and Masters of Commerce (Honours) (Accountancy) 1991

Professor Alex Frino is an authority on security market supervision and integrity and has impacted the rules and mechanisms used by the Australian Securities Exchange. Professor Frino is an advocate for women in business and leadership positions and drives the Women in MBA (WiMBA) program, which helps women overcome common barriers to completing their MBA study -- time and money.

Professor Frino is regarded as one of the most prolific finance academics in Australia and internationally. Alex graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1988 and a Master of Commerce (Honours) in 1989. After winning a scholarship to study at Cambridge in the UK, he completed a Master of Philosophy in Finance, followed by a PhD in Accounting at the University of Sydney. His career has taken him from a lectureship at UOW to an appointment in the private financial sector here and in the US and to a professorship at the University of Sydney. He is currently Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Management at Macquarie University.

NB: UOW joined the WiMBA network in 2015. Read more: Business school tackles gender imbalance in MBA study (Media Release)

Young Alumni Award

Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science) 2012

Ms Kimberley Abbott is the founder of the social business Roka Jewellery, which economically empowers women at the Marahali Bande quarry in Bangalore who make the jewellery sold via Roka from the waste product (a fine dust) of the local granite quarries. Ms Abbott founded Roka after travelling to India as a student in 2012 with the ‘40K Foundation’.

Ms Abbott’s entrepreneurship and gender equality advocacy has been recognised many times over: in 2015, Ms Abbott, who Ms helped found the ‘Yes WE (Women Engineers) Can!’ Girls in Engineering Program at UOW, was selected by the Australian Government to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women as Australia’s NGO Delegate and to act as an Advisor to the Minister to help draft the policies and platform for action for the UN; in 2014, she was a finalist in the NSW Women of the Year Awards; in 2013, she was named in the Westpac and Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence; also in 2013, she presented the speech “Rubble to Rupees” at TEDxYouth@Sydney; and in 2011, she was named Young Australian of the Year by the Kiama Municipal Council.

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2015 Fellows


Mr Pat Farrar has made a quiet yet profound contribution to the University and to many people and communities. Fifteen years ago, Mr Farrar joined the Illawarra Committee for International Students. He went on to become one of its driving forces. Funded by the University, the Committee has helped international students for more than 35 years to learn about Australia’s language and culture and, in their words, to “have fun, make friends and to interact with members of the local Illawarra community”. Mr Farrar was President when the Illawarra Committee for International Students won the inaugural NSW International Student Award for Community Engagement (Education Provider) at the Opera House in September 2014.

After completing an Honours degree in Arts in the early 1970s, he was appointed as a lecturer at Wollongong Teachers’ College which then became Wollongong Institute of Education. After the amalgamation of the Institute and the University, Mr Farrar moved into the Faculty of Education where he lectured for over two decades of challenge and change in UOW’s history. Mr Farrar is an advocate for lifelong learning and for welcoming new experiences. When he retired in the early 2000s, he became an Australian Business Volunteer with AusAID, firstly in Western Samoa and then in Laos where he worked with diplomats and public servants at the Institute of Foreign Affairs to improve their English. In 2009, Mr Farrar became an Indigenous Community Volunteer, which led to his participation in three “Blank Page Summits” as a guest of the Traditional Owners.

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Associate Professor Pauline Lysaght retired from UOW in July 2015 after a career spanning 20 years. During this time, Professor Lysaght made contributions to UOW across the spectrum of community engagement, teaching and learning, research and service. Pauline’s contributions emanate from her formal leadership in roles in the School of Education and University which include Sub-Dean, Associate Dean, Head of Students and Student Ombudsman and most recently as Associate Director of Early Start. Professor Lysaght had an active monitoring role for UOW with initiatives such as the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) and homework/learning centres.

Professor Lysaght is a foundation member of the team responsible for the design of the Early Start Initiative and has been integral to the success of the project to date and instrumental in the design of the outreach model that is now being operationalised. In recognition of her work, Pauline was nominated and successfully awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Community Engagement in the Team Category for her work on the “Voices of Children” project for two consecutive years in 2008 and 2009.

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Richard Miller is a community leader and philanthropist and has dedicated his working life to agriculture, one of the Illawarra’s founding industries. For more than four decades, Mr Miller has experienced the rewards, challenges and hardships of rural life, including floods and droughts. However, this has not deterred him from service to his community. Mr Miller was an active member of the local Rural Fire Service and held leadership roles in the Junior Farmers organisation (later Rural Youth), the Dapto and Albion Park Agricultural and Horticultural Societies and the Rural Rate Payers Association. He was also a member of the South Coast Agricultural Research and Extension Committee.

He’s always recognised the potential of education and research to transform the growing region and the lives of its people too. He invested in future generations through his partnership with the University of Wollongong. In retirement, he established the John and Belle Miller Family Memorial Fund, named in honour of his hard-working parents, to sponsor students and key research through two important scholarships programs. Over the last seven years, the Miller Family Bridgewater Equity Scholarships have given 60 students the chance to study and achieve in Engineering, Teaching and Nursing (the vocations and interests of Richard's father, mother and two sisters). The Miller Family Dementia Research Summer Scholarships are also very special to Richard.

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Poet and teacher Ron Pretty has dedicated his life to lifting the profile of Australian poetry and creative writing. Ron’s academic career in Wollongong spans three decades. He was appointed as a lecturer at Wollongong Teachers College in 1970 and thence moved to the University where he became Head of Writing for fifteen years until he retired in 2000 as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Creative Arts. He subsequently taught writing at the University of Melbourne for five years. Ron Pretty has an impressive scholarly and creative record. For fifteen years, he edited the literary/arts magazine, scarp, published by the University. He is author of fourteen books, including eight collections of his own poems, and editor of a further seven, including Outlook: An Anthology of Australian Poetry for Senior Students and Blue Dog: Australian Poetry 2002 – 2007. The third edition of his textbook, Creating Poetry, will be published this year.

Mr Pretty helped to establish the South Coast Writers’ Centre, a community writers’ organisation that has nurtured many of the Illawarra’s writers. From 1987 to 2007, he was the director of Five Islands Press, a leading publisher of contemporary Australian poetry. During his tenure, the Press published 230 books by Australian poets, many of which have subsequently been shortlisted for, or won, prizes. Between 2000 and 2007, Ron ran the Poetry Australia Foundation, a community based, non-profit-making organisation which was established to promote poets and poetry. He is now a life member of its successor, the Australian Poetry Inc. Ron Pretty’s services to literature, and Australian poetry in particular, were acknowledged by the NSW Premier’s Special Prize in 2001 and by his admission as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2002. In 2012, the Australia Council for the Arts awarded Ron a residency at the Whiting Studio in Rome. In 2014 the Five Islands Press established the Ron Pretty Poetry Prize, which attracted a thousand entries.


Posted in Politics and Society
Tagged: Alumni