La Trobe honours six of its finest graduates:
They’ve skied to the North and South poles, set up the nation’s largest aid agency for asylum seekers, and created an international biotechnology company lauded for its life-saving TB diagnostics.
They run a $17 billion industry superannuation fund, are helping build a billion dollar synchrotron in the US – one of the largest investments in science by the US government in recent years – and influence the television viewing habits of our children….
‘They’ are the six winners of this year’s La Trobe University Alumni Awards, embodiment of the University’s slogan: ‘Infinite Possibilities’. The awards were presented in August by La Trobe University’s Chancellor, Adrienne E Clarke AC, at a special ceremony held at Federation Square.
Winner of the ‘Young Achiever Award’ was Mr Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM, CEO and founder of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
‘Distinguished Alumni Awards’ were presented to Linda Beilharz, adventurer, community development leader and founder of Journeys for Learning; David Atkin, CEO of the Australian industry superannuation fund, Cbus; Dr Yong Cai, physicist from the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York; Dr Patricia Edgar AM, founding director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation; and Dr Tony Radford, Managing Director and CEO of the medical biotechnology firm, Cellestis.
Congratulating the winners, Professor Clarke said: ‘When our alumni do so well on the national and international stage, we know the University has been successful in its mission which is to be a recognised leader in the scholarly discovery, preservation, transmission and application of knowledge.
‘These alumni and their achievements are highly valued by the University for the wonderful contributions they have made to society. They also enhance our reputation for producing community leaders and are a model for our current students.’
Young Achiever Award
Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM began the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre a decade ago as a small food bank in Footscray. It now has 800 volunteers and delivers services to some 7,000 refugees in the community and detention centres.
He graduated from La Trobe in 1994 with a Bachelor of Behavioural Sciences, completing his Bachelor of Law in 1999. His work has also been acknowledged with a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 and an Order of Australia Medal in 2011.
Of Greek background, experiences of racism and exploitation fuelled Mr Karapanagiotidis’ passion for human rights. He says the issue of asylum seekers ‘goes to the very heart of who we are as a nation’, and tests ‘our character and moral fabric’. ‘To date we have followed the path of fear and ignorance. The time to follow the path of justice and humanity has come.’
Distinguished Alumni Awards
David Atkin is CEO of Cbus, a superannuation fund that caters for the retirement needs of more than 650,000 members and 72,000 employers in the building and construction industry.
He helped set up the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors and was the first Australian elected to the board of the United Nations’ ‘Principles of Responsible Investment’. He is also a board member of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia and member of the CEO Panel for the Investor Group on Climate Change.
Mr Atkin completed his Master of Arts at La Trobe University in 1992. Specialising in labour history, he says his degree was the ‘perfect launching pad for working at an organisation that has as its sole objective meeting the retirement expectations of its members’.
Linda Beilharz, the first Australian woman to ski to both Poles, each a gruelling journey of some two months, was last year’s ‘Australian Geographic’ Adventurer of the Year.
A community development worker and founder of the not-for-profit company, ‘Journeys for Learning’, Ms Beilharz lives in Bendigo and is Executive Officer of Women’s Health Loddon Mallee. She is also a private pilot and the president of Alpine Search and Rescue.
Ms Beilharz graduated from La Trobe in 1993 with a Graduate Diploma of Community Development obtaining her Master of Health Sciences in 1999. She has maintained her links with the University, variously as a staff member and guest lecturer, sharing in policy making, research, course design and teaching.
Dr Yong Cai works from New York’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and leads the Inelastic X‐ray Scattering Group for the USA’s Synchrotron Light Source II project which is building the world’s brightest X-ray source on an instrument about four times the size of the Australian Synchrotron.
As an international student from China, Dr Cai earned his PhD in Physics from La Trobe University in 1993, and has since spent most of his research career at state-of-the-art synchrotrons around the world.
‘La Trobe was my first foreign experience outside of China,’ he says. Since then he has published more than 80 original articles in scientific journals and conference proceedings, and has given more than eighty invited lectures and presentations at scientific conferences, colloquia, and seminars.
Dr Patricia Edgar AM was the first woman appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. She then became founding director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, her programs winning more than 100 national and international awards.
Also Foundation Chair of La Trobe’s Centre for the Study of Media and Communication, Dr Edgar set up the first courses on film and television in an Australian University. She ‘fell in love with movies at the Saturday Matinees in Mildura’, completed an MA in Film and Communication in California and completed her PhD at La Trobe University in 1974.
In 1995 she conceived and hosted the first World Summit on Television and Children in Melbourne which began a global movement which she still chairs. She also chaired the Breast Cancer Network of Australia for ten years and is author of ten books.
Dr Tony Radford, Managing Director and CEO of Cellestis, is a passionate advocate for improved public health through detection and prevention of tuberculosis. He completed his Bachelor of Science (Honours) at La Trobe University in 1980 and graduated with a PhD in Microbiology from La Trobe University in 1984.
After a career at CSIRO, he joined AMRAD Limited and in 2000 established Cellestis. The company is listed on the ASX and has developed new tuberculosis and other diagnostic products which are sold in all major global markets. Based in Melbourne, Cellestis employs one hundred staff, with offices and operations in the USA, Europe, Japan and Singapore.
Dr Radford says while science can bring intellectual challenge and commercial success, the ability to make a lasting difference to people’s lives makes medical research and development a ‘complete and remarkably satisfying career choice’.