On Thursday 2 March Australia’s business leaders gathered at the National Gallery of Victoria to attend the 2023 Melbourne Foundation for Business and Economics Dinner. This 13th annual event was a night of connection, fundraising and celebration.
The Foundation Dinner was hosted by the Chair of the Melbourne Foundation for Business & Economics supported by the Foundation Dinner Committee, the Business & Economics Board, the FBE Alumni Council, and staff from the Faculty and University of Melbourne.
The purpose of the Melbourne Foundation is to build an endowment for the future, to ensure that talented students have access to transformative education, regardless of their circumstances.
The Foundation Dinner also showcases the world-class research produced by FBE and engages and connects the University of Melbourne with corporate Australia.
This year’s Foundation Dinner theme was ‘Women in Business and Economics’ in the lead up to International Women’s Day.
Student speaker – Ms Samrawit Tadesse
Ms Samrawit Tadesse, a Bachelor of Commerce student and recipient of the Di Pietro Family First in the Family Scholarship, shared her experience being the only-child of two hard-working immigrant parents who came to Australia from Ethiopia in the early 2000s.
"Beginning university life appeared to be a chore, where I would have to study my life away just to catch up to my peers. Until I was awarded the Di Pietro First in the Family Scholarship. As a recipient of that scholarship, I was admitted into the Abernethy Scholars Program where I would soon learn that even with no other family around me, people would still be willing to help," she said.
Samrawit said her scholarship provided her with valuable networking opportunities and mentorships, as well as having a significant financial impact on her life.
"Thanks to the financial support provided by the scholarship, I've been able to focus more on my studies. By alleviating the financial burden associated with attending university, the scholarship has allowed me to pursue my academic and career goals with greater focus and determination," she said.
Alumni of distinction
Every year the FBE Alumni Council recognises FBE alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their discipline and society. The following four alumni received their respective awards at the 2023 Foundation Dinner.
Ms Joy Linton – Leadership Award
Ms Joy Linton is a global finance leader with extensive experience and a demonstrated track record of success as a global Chief Financial Officer (CFO), with more than 30 years of experience in complex, highly regulated businesses across healthcare and other industries.
Ms Linton is CFO of global biotech CSL Limited. She leads the Global Finance organisation, including the CSL Behring, CSL Vifor and CSL Seqirus businesses, and its accompanying strategy. She is responsible for managing the financial aspects of CSL’s global strategy and serves as the company’s chief financial steward. Her accountabilities include financial planning, reporting, capital management, tax, treasury, and investor relations.
Previously, Ms Linton served as CFO and Executive Director at global health insurance company Bupa and earlier as the General Manager of Health Services for Bupa UK. Prior to joining Bupa, she was CFO of National Foods, one of Australia’s largest food and beverage companies. She was also a Non-Executive Director of Bega Cheese Ltd, an ASX-200 listed company.
Ms Linton earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Melbourne in 1986. She is a fellow of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia and a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Ms Rona Glynn-McDonald – Rising Star for Young Alumni Award
Ms Rona Glynn-McDonald is a Kaytetye woman who grew up in Mparntwe on Arrernte Country. With ties to storytelling, economics and narrative change, she works to shape future systems that centre First Nations people, knowledge and solutions. She is the founding CEO of Common Ground and co-founder of First Nations Futures.
After finishing high school in 2014, Ms Glynn-McDonald moved to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne, majoring in economics and finance.
She has since worked in policy at the Central Land Council, the Research Unit for Indigenous Languages at the University of Melbourne, Reconciliation Victoria, and the Foundation for Young Australians. She was previously Director of First Nations at YLab, a social enterprise that puts young people with diverse lived experiences at the centre of designing and developing innovative and impactful solutions to complex social issues.
In 2020, she was a finalist for the Victorian Young Achiever awards and was awarded a Westpac Social Change Fellowship. In 2019 she was a recipient of The Diana Award and was named a 'Woman of the Future' by Women's Weekly.
Ms Glynn-McDonald works as an advisor to companies and organisations across the not for profit, retail, sport and philanthropy sectors. Through her work across different sectors she is shaping futures grounded in First Nations knowledge, reciprocity and economic justice.
Mr Ross Adler – Outstanding Achievement Award
Mr Ross Adler is a distinguished businessman with a long career in international trade, and a significant contributor to the arts and education.
He graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1966 and obtained a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in 1969.
He began his career in international trade at Brown & Dureau, which he later ran and sold to Australian Paper Manufacturers (APM, now Amcor), becoming Deputy Managing Director of APM in 1982. In 1984 Ross was appointed Managing Director and CEO of Santos, a position he held until 2000.
Mr Adler has held numerous directorships with major Australian corporations, including Director of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Director of Telstra Corporation, Chairman of the Australian Trade Commission, and Chairman of Domino’s Pizza Enterprises. He is currently Executive Chairman of Amtrade International.
He is a longstanding contributor to the arts and education. In the arts he has served in a number of roles including Chairman of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Chairman of the Adelaide Arts Festival, and currently as a Board member of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia Foundation. In education, he served as member of Council, Chair of the Finance Committee and Deputy Chancellor of the University of Adelaide and was honoured as a Doctor of the University in 2011. He served Melbourne Grammar School for many years as President of the Foundation, Chair of the Finance Committee and Deputy Chair of the Council.
Mr Adler became an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1999, received a Centenary Medal in 2001 and was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2007.
Mr Tom Griffith - Entrepreneurial Leadership Award
Mr Tom Griffith is co-founder and Director of Emma and Tom’s Foods. He has over 30 years of experience as a global leader in accounting, investment, acquisitions, and entrepreneurship.
Mr Griffith graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1986 with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in economics and accounting. He joined Ernst & Young where he gained his chartered accounting qualification and a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and Investment, and his first experience as a manager. In 1993 he joined investment bank McIntosh Corporate (now Merrill Lynch) working in corporate finance and asset acquisitions. In 1996 Tom joined Mazars in London, consulting to French multinationals and advising the United Nations Security Council during the first Gulf War.
In 2001, Mr Griffith joined London-based media start up Mongrel Worlds as the CFO. It was during leisure time on his way back to Australia, on the ski slopes of North America, that he first discovered whole fruit smoothies and began plans for a new business venture.
In Australia he recruited Emma Welsh to assist him with the launch of the new premium fruit smoothie brand, Emma & Tom’s. The company now stocks over 8,000 Australian retail outlets with their range of fruit smoothies, kombucha and healthy snacks via a fleet of forty company-operated refrigerated vans. Emma and Tom’s is also sold in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Mr Griffith is a Non-Executive Director of Sydney based investment bank, Record Point, a NED of mining services and SaaS company Interlate and a keynote speaker with Saxton Speakers Group.
He is father to two teenage daughters and enjoys skiing, surfing, and running with them during his free time.
Keynote address - Ms Jennifer Nason
Ms Jennifer Nason, Global Chairman of Investment Banking at J.P. Morgan in New York, presented the 2023 keynote address.
Ms Nason gave insights into her journey from studying at the University of Melbourne in the early 1980s to becoming a global leader in international business with almost 40 years of experience in high-level project management, acquisitions and investment banking.
“I’m grateful for every minute of it. The highs and the lows. Along the way I’ve been inspired by great leadership. And sometimes devastated by dishonesty and cowardice," said Ms Nason.
"I've had periods where I was in the zone and on my ‘A game’ personally. And I've had periods where I struggled and was mediocre. I persevered and regrouped, because at the end of the day, it was just worth it,” she said.
Ms Nason spoke about the importance of diversity in investment banking.
"I'm not going to dignify old stereotypes by standing up here and reassuring you that women can do math. What I will tell you is that technical skills are not the only drivers of success and technical skills alone don’t make you a great leader," she said.
"Increasingly business and investment decisions require consideration of a much wider range of financial and non-financial factors. This creates the opportunity to bring in new diverse perspectives and inputs," she said.
She said sexism is alive everywhere and now it is harder to fight because much of it has gone underground.
"Over the years in my quest for equality, at the most senior levels of investment banking, I've been accused of being overly sensitive, dramatic, and in some cases, of creating problems where none exist. I have seen incredible women wilt and despair in the face of this gaslighting," she said.
She asked the men in audience to recruit women, but not expect them to be the same as men.
"Embrace our differences. Learn from our experiences. Leverage our strengths. Celebrate our success. Please don’t get jaded, tired or annoyed. Stay with us," she said.
Supporting business education
Following the event, Professor Paul Kofman, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, acknowledged the organisers, speakers and guests for what was a fantastic night for the business community, the academics and the students attending.
"The Foundation Dinner wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of many sponsors, the Foundation Board, and our staff who put the event together. I thank all our speakers for giving their time and for inspiring us with their stories. I thank all guests who were generous in supporting the Foundation,” said Professor Kofman.