The 2016 RMIT Honorary Awards and Graduation Ceremony was held on Friday 20 May at Storey Hall.

About the recipients

Emeritus Professor David Beanland AO was awarded a Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)

Mr Helmut Pekarek was awarded a Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa)

Christin Florence Down was awarded the Patricia Guthrie Memorial Award

Amrit Singh Sandhu was awarded the J.N. McNicol Prize

Laura Emily Bridge was awarded the RMIT Award for Higher Education

Glenn Edwin Halupka was awarded the RMIT Award for Vocational Education

Mr Paul Morrison was the recipient of the Francis Ormond Medal

Mr Trevor Rook was the recipient of the Ralph McIntosh Medal

Doctoral graduates

The Ceremony celebrated and recognised the achievements of doctoral students from the colleges of Business, Design and Social Context, and Science, Engineering and Health. The students’ combined years of dedication to research within their respective fields has contributed invaluable knowledge for the benefit of the communities within which we operate.

Emeritus Professor David Beanland AO

An electronics engineer by profession specialising in semiconductor and integrated circuit technology, he has dedicated his career to higher education and research. Professor Beanland has been a driving force at RMIT since he started working here in 1968 as Head of the Department of Communication and Electronic Engineering. Moving through the ranks, he became a Faculty Dean, Associate Director (Academic) and Director, before his appointment as Vice-Chancellor and President in 1992, guiding the University through the Dawkins’ reforms.

RMIT Vietnam would not exist today without his vision and foresight. Professor Beanland’s commitment to education cannot be understated and even after retiring as Vice-Chancellor in 2000, he was Director and Board Chair of RMIT International University Vietnam until 2004.

In recognition of Professor Beanland’s significant role as a founder and driver in the establishment of RMIT in Vietnam, in 2014, the Beanland Building (formerly Academic Building One) at the South Saigon campus was named after him. He continues to serve as an Emeritus Professor at RMIT.

Professor Beanland graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) from the University of Melbourne and Master of Science, as well as a PhD, from the University of Salford in the UK. His first teaching position was in electrical engineering at Caulfield Technical College. He continues to support education by providing scholarships to disadvantaged students through the Emeritus Professor David Beanland AO Scholarship, established in 2014.

He is also the Australia-Vietnam Education Promotion Association (AVEPA) Chairman. AVEPA awards scholarships to encourage high achieving Australian students of Vietnamese origin to become leaders in the Australian community.

Mr Helmut Pekarek

Mr Pekarek received a Master of Engineering (Applied Physics) from the Technical University, Vienna, Austria in 1963. He joined Siemens Group in 1970 after working in research, power plant engineering and project planning in several European countries and the United States. From 1996 to 2003, he was Managing Director and Chairman of Siemens Limited here in Melbourne and spokesman for the Siemens Group of companies in Australia and New Zealand.

During this time, RMIT and Siemens cemented their relationship through initiatives such as the RMIT Industry Experience Research Program, which enables almost 200 of our students to carry out vocational training and research projects at world-class businesses and institutions in Europe, Asia and the USA. The company also contributed philanthropically to the University, with the Siemens-RMIT Fine Art Scholarship Award for a decade.

Mr Pekarek has been a member of RMIT University Council from 2005 through 2013 and chaired RMIT Training from 2009 to his retirement.

Outside of RMIT, Mr Pekarek has served for 10 years as Councillor, Chair, and President of the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce; served as a Director on several company boards; been involved in The CEO Circle; and been a Committee member of the Australian-German Association.

Christin Florence Down

In 2015, Christin Down was conferred with the award Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental Engineering) with First-class Honours. Throughout her studies she attained High Distinctions in all courses resulting in a GPA of 4.0.

Due to Christin’s academic prowess she received discipline-specific awards and prizes throughout her studies including the John Saunders Award for top final year student in groundwater stream (2015), the ExxonMobil Prize for Excellence (2014) and the ACLCA Ian McKenzie Award (2013).

In 2013, with a small team of colleagues, Christin launched the Association of Women Engineering Students. The Association amassed a membership of 75 and delivered two professional development workshops, a discussion panel and two CV workshops. As president, Christin liaised with professional bodies, women’s groups and universities.

Christin’s enthusiasm for her field lead her to temporarily relocate to New Zealand and work at the New Plymouth District waste-water treatment plant for eight weeks as part of her work-integrated learning. She subsequently completed another 10 weeks with Golder Associates in Melbourne.

Christin also participated in a two-week trip to China to study groundwater issues that culminated in a design/management solution aimed at improving China’s water security that ultimately won the Chinese Academy of Sciences Hydrogeology group annual prize.

Christin’s strong belief in contributing to society led her to volunteer for Engineers without Borders and as an active member of Greyhound Rescue Victoria’s Greyhound Adoption Program. To support the RMIT community Christin represented her cohort on the Staff-Student Liaison Committee.

Amrit Singh Sandhu

In 2015, Amrit Singh Sandhu was conferred with the degree Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure) (Honours) achieving a perfect GPA of 4.0.

In 2014 he was awarded the Brookfield Multiplex Prize which is presented to the best student in the penultimate year of engineering studies (civil and structural) at RMIT. This led to Amrit working with Brookfield Multiplex as a graduate project engineer since graduating. In addition to his academic excellence, Amrit has contributed to school and University activities by mentoring first year students to help ensure they make a successful and positive transition to university life.

Amrit has been an active member of the Civil Engineering Students Association and has volunteered for the sustainably-focused RMIT electric racing team. Amrit also volunteered on his recent travels to Brazil, where he drew on his engineering background to help a remote mountain-dwelling community secure semi-permanent water solutions.

Having undertaken work experience at two reputable engineering firms, InfraPlan and Clifton Formwork during his time at RMIT, Amrit has built a reputation for organising outstanding group projects, honing his leadership skills in the process.

In recognition of Amrit’s dedication and achievements to his field he was welcomed to formally register as a Young Green Leader of the Future with the Green Building Council Australia.

Amrit was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award to continue his studies towards a PhD, which he will undertake at RMIT and will focus on green spaces in the urban environment.

Laura Emily Bridge

In 2015, Laura Bridge was conferred with the degree Bachelor of Business (Management), graduating with a cumulative GPA of 3.1.

During her studies at RMIT, Laura generated a strategic management plan for BAE Systems Australia Maritime Division. The proposal was top of the class resulting in Laura presenting the findings and recommendations to the BAE board.

Laura also competed in the nationwide Microsoft Protégé competition, creating a B2B strategic marketing plan for Drawboard, the flagship PDF editing app for Windows 8 tablets. Her teams’ proposal progressed through to the semi-finals where they presented the proposal to Microsoft.

As a recent migrant to Australia, Laura has demonstrated a fierce determination to achieve by juggling two jobs and full-time study at RMIT. Laura works as a Radiology Clerk at the Alfred Hospital and as Project Officer within the Health Advisory Department.

The leadership skills that Laura has developed in her professional life have translated into the classroom and she has been a wonderful support for her peers. She is a leader who contributes positively to the environment around her.

Laura has been accepted into the MBA program at RMIT and we wish her all the best with her studies in the future.

Glenn Edwin Halupka

In 2015, Glenn Halupka was conferred with the award Advanced Diploma of Engineering (Mechanical), achieving a perfect GPA score of 4.0. As a result of Glenn’s achievements at RMIT, he was selected for a highly sought after position in the Defence TAFE Employment Scheme with the Department of Defence in 2015.

He was granted a Technical Traineeship, where he had the opportunity to use and further enhance the skills attained during his studies at RMIT.

Following a successful year working for the Department of Defence, Glenn gained a permanent position as a technical advisor, where he provides advice on engineering projects and performs testing and evaluation of small arms and associated equipment.

In addition to his academic success, Glenn has exhibited leadership potential in his extra-curricular roles, becoming a member of the Institute of Engineers Australia. He also attended the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in 2015 as a representative of RMIT School of Vocational Engineering.

Glenn plans to expand his engineering knowledge by continuing his RMIT studies in the Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) (Honours) program and looks forward to the opportunity to participate in many more interesting and challenging projects including the RMIT Formula SAE Racing team.

Mr Paul Morrison

Starting as a laboratory assistant in 1982, Mr Morrison is now a professional officer of Separation Science, keeping the equipment in the University’s analytical laboratory on City campus running.

Mr Morrison has a growing research profile, with 66 peer-reviewed publications and has been part of numerous projects as well as grant applications. He is well respected by industry. One of his referees said he is sure that RMIT would not be half as productive in analytical science as it is without Mr Morrison’s knowledge and dedication.

“Everybody from undergraduate to PhD students and research staff, have all benefited from Paul’s friendly manner, vast knowledge and willingness to get stuck in to a problem. Paul is one of those people who work patiently and dedicatedly in the background, never seeking reward or recognition for themselves.”

Another cited his ability and willingness to collaborate with scientists at all levels.

“His knowledge, expertise and technical skill have been vital for the success of numerous research projects.”

A former student spoke of Mr Morrison’s patience in explaining every element of the instrument he used for his honours degree.

“He allowed me to slowly understand the application of the instrument . . . he never pressured me on implementing his advice, allowing me to problem solve the issues for myself.”

Mr Trevor Rook

Mr Rook is a senior lecturer and Program Coordinator for the Applied Chemistry, Applied Chemistry/Business Management and Applied Chemistry/Chemical Engineering undergraduate degrees.

Graduating from RMIT in 1979, he has spent much of his working life, apart from a brief period as an industrial chemist, at the University. Mr Rook’s popularity with his colleagues and students past and present led to 34 of them putting pen to paper to support his nomination for this award. One of his referees said Mr Rook was an excellent teacher and very few staff members had such an outstanding record of student satisfaction.

“His lecture notes are the gold standard that everybody else in the department looks to emulate. He also operates an open door system for staff and students alike.”

Another said Mr Rook had been a supportive mentor who “has shown a genuine, invested interest in my career endeavours and provided realistic, honest advice that I have taken on board and used to improve my teaching.”

And a final word from a former student:

“Trevor has helped me believe in my ability to achieve, something I doubted before coming to RMIT University … I have always found Trevor’s lectures so interesting and inspiring with his passion for chemistry something to aspire to. Trevor Rook has been an inspiration to me throughout my degree.”