Outstanding Alumnus of the Year

Published 26 August 2012

2012 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year and 2012 Young Alumnus of the Year
Gregory Prior and Matthew O’Hara have been named joint winners of the Southern Cross University 2012 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award announced at the annual awards ceremony in Byron Bay on Friday night (August 24).

Mr Prior is deputy director-general, schools, for the NSW Department of Education and Communities and Mr O’Hara, is the chief executive officer of Oak Flats Bowling and Recreation Club.

Mr Prior graduated with a Diploma of Teaching from the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education in 1975 before completing a Master of Education from Southern Cross University in 1996. Starting off as a classroom teacher he progressed through the levels to deputy director-general, schools. In his current role he oversees the strategic implementation of policies in the department’s 10 regions, supporting more than 750,000 students and more than 78,000 staff.

Mr Prior fostered and developed the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc. and helped usher in a new Disability Action Plan (2011-2015) in collaboration with key stakeholders. He has also helped build relationships with educational jurisdictions in China.

“This award is very humbling for me. I am very proud to be in education and very proud to be associated with this institution,” Mr Prior said after accepting his award from the Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC and Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee

“One of the great things to watch, and something I have been very proud to be associated with, is the University hasn’t just tried to duplicate or emulate other universities. It has actually designed its own future and it has looked at where it’s been able to reach into the regions and offer the education that is appropriate regionally but also in the global environment we work in now.

“Education is a passion. We are very lucky across this room because education has allowed us to have choice and that’s what drives the work I do everyday.”

The joint winner of the award, Mr O’Hara, who was unable to attend the event, graduated with a Bachelor of Business in Club Management in 1998. He is the chief executive officer of Oak Flats Bowling and Recreation Club, an organisation with 75 staff, 11,000 members and an annual turnover of $9 million.

Under Mr O’Hara’s leadership, the club experienced a significant increase in profitability and was named Club of the Year by ClubsNSW in 2011. The Club was the only club in NSW to become a silver member of the NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage Sustainable Advantage Program. On a personal note, Matthew was elected as State Councillor for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Zone of ClubsNSW and raised more than $100,000 for local charities.

Also announced at the awards evening was Southern Cross University’s 2012 Young Alumnus of the Year – which went to tourism graduate Abram le Cerf.

Mr le Cerf graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Tourism Management in 2006 and has held a diverse range of roles including general manager, Gourmet Multi Cuisine Restaurant and lecturer at The Maldives National University and social and environmental manager at Six Senses Laamu. In his time as a lecturer, Mr le Cerf coordinated the development of the Maldive’s first nationally administered Bachelor of Science in Hospitality and Management.

Mr le Cerf has had an immediate and significant impact on all aspects related to sustainability in his current role for Six Senses Laamu Resort. He developed and directed the ‘Rainwater Harvesting Program – Maldives’ to provide public access to clean drinking water to vulnerable island communities during the hot north-west monsoon season. He is currently collaborating with the United Nations on the Low Emissions Climate Resilient Development Program in the Maldives.

“Receiving this award means a great deal to me. It indeed highlights the wonderful work that SCU alumni achieve all around the world every year,” Mr le Cerf said.

“It’s thanks to my years at Southern Cross University that I have enjoyed the successes and achievements that I have so far. The outstanding quality of the curriculum, the delivery and the support services enabled me to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed and excel in a dynamic and ever changing professional world.

“My studies developed my understanding of global and local social, economic and environmental issues and how tourism can contribute solutions for a sustainable world.”

The 2012 School Alumnus of the Year awards were also presented:

School of Arts and Social Sciences 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Julie Barratt.
Southern Cross Business School 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Dr Puvan Selvanathan.
School of Education 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Gregory Prior.
School of Environment, Science and Engineering 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Fiona Chandler.
School of Law and Justice 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Edwina Lloyd.
School of Tourism and Hospitality Management 2012 Alumnus of the Year – Matthew O’Hara.

Photo: The Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC, left, and Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee, right, with the joint winner of the 2012 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Award, Gregory Prior, and the 2012 Young Alumnus of the Year Abram le Cerf.

Media contact: Brigid Veale head of Communications and Publications, 66593006 or 0439 680 748.