Pioneers and innovators celebrated in 2021 Alumni Excellence Awards

Thursday, 4 November 2021

One of Australia’s most highly regarded and influential engineers, an international social changemaker and trailblazers in STEM education, mental health and climate change action are among the 2021 University of Newcastle Alumni Excellence Award recipients announced today.

Alumni Excellence Awards recipients

Celebrating the accomplishments of the University’s global alumni community, the Awards recognise the innovation, creativity, and exceptional leadership of alumni who have had a profound impact on communities and inspired others through their local, national and international achievements.

Peter CockbainAM, is awarded the Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence, the highest honour of the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Awards.  Co-founder of one of Australia’s largest privately owned electrical engineering companies, Mr Cockbain is a distinguished innovator, entrepreneur, industrialist, philanthropist and a highly respected engineer.

Vice President of PR, Communications & CSR at Getty Images, Anne Flanagan, receives the prestigious Newton-John Alumni Medal. A veteran of the international creative industry, Anne has challenged deeply ingrained stereotypes, enabled authentic representation for historically excluded communities and advocated for diversity and inclusion both in front of, and behind the lens. The International Leadership recipient is Monika Goforth, who is based in Guatemala, and has dedicated her life to finding and promoting innovative, real-world solutions to break the cycle of poverty and underdevelopment.

The National Leadership recipient is Dr Scott Sleap, a national STEM education leader who has pioneered visionary programs linking industry and education to support the development of Australia’s future workforce.

Dr Rickie Elliott is the Regional Leadership recipient. A leading clinical psychologist, Dr Elliott has worked tirelessly in health services and private practice in Newcastle to support the mental health needs of children, adolescents, adults and families.

Ashley Gordon is Executive Director of NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Services and this year’s Indigenous Alumni Award recipient. Although well-known as the first ever player signed to the Newcastle Knights, Ashley's reach into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities stretches far beyond his contribution to rugby league.

Dietitian and advocate for children’s health and nutrition Dr Li Kheng Chai is the Beryl Nashar Young Researcher. She specialises in the prevention and management of obesity in children and is an active proponent for health equity for all Australians.

Global leader on climate change and energy policy Stuart Evans is the Young Alumni Award recipient. He began his career supporting the development of Australia's carbon pricing mechanism and is now based in London, where he leads economic consultancy Vivid Economics' work on climate policy.

A new award introduced in 2020, the Convocation Medal for Exceptional Contribution, is awarded to Emeritus Professor Alan Roberts AM.

Established to recognise individuals or groups who have contributed to the advancement of the University of Newcastle as influencers, advocates, advisors or supporters, the Convocation Medal recipient is selected by the Vice-Chancellor.

A world-leading researcher and consultant in the field of bulk solids, Emeritus Professor Roberts has contributed significantly to the University’s engagement with industry and has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to providing students with life ready skills to make their mark in industry and society.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said it was inspiring to see the University’s alumni demonstrating exceptional leadership across the world.

“The University of Newcastle is built on the success of our alumni.  Our remarkable people keep making a profound difference in communities locally, nationally and internationally through their creativity, vision and determined pursuit of developing new solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems.

“Our Alumni Excellence Awards give us an opportunity to acknowledge the influence and achievements of our of industry leaders, drivers of change, innovative researchers and creative powerhouses.

“This year’s recipients are wonderful ambassadors for our University and a great inspiration to all of us. It gives us a great sense of pride to celebrate them.”

The University’s thriving alumni community now totals more than 155,000 graduates across 149 countries.

Since 1975, the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Excellence Awards program has recognised more than 180 alumni recipients.

A special video tribute has been created to recognise, share and celebrate the incredible impact of the 2021 recipients.  


Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence

Peter Cockbain AM

Co-Founder Ampcontrol Pty Ltd

Newton-John Alumni Medal

Anne Flanagan

Vice President of PR, Communications & CSR, Getty Images

Indigenous Alumni Award

Ashley Gordon

Executive Director, NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Service

International Leadership Award

Monika Goforth

Executive Director, Appropriate Technology Collaborative

National Leadership Award

Dr Scott Sleap

STEM Project Advisor 7 – 12, NSW Department of Education  

Regional Leadership Award

Dr Rickie Elliot

Clinical Psychologist and Director, The Hummingbird Centre

Beryl Nashar Young Researcher Award

Dr Li Kheng Chai

Research Fellow, Health and Wellbeing Queensland

Young Alumni Award

Stuart Evans

Principal, Vivid Economics

Convocation Medal for Exceptional Contribution

Emeritus Professor Alan Roberts AM

Emeritus Professor, School of Engineering, University of Newcastle

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