Alumni Stories

Our alumni inspire us with their journeys, challenges and successes. We have nurtured 17 Rhodes Scholars, 5 Premiers, 3 Anglican Bishops and many other prominent industry leaders, artists, authors, musicians, scientists and sportspeople. The School also ranks in the top 10 Australian schools for alumni receiving OAMs.

Within their chosen professions they are often at the top of their field. Here are just a few who have dared to dream, pioneer, innovate and inspire.

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn PhD, DSc, MSc

Professor Blackburn’s contribution to our world cannot be represented purely as of local or of Tasmanian significance. Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California in San Francisco, Elizabeth Blackburn has been awarded many times for her pioneering research. She is a recipient of numerous prestigious scientific awards including the US National Academy of Sciences Award and the Benjamin Franklin Medal.

In 2009, Elizabeth and her US-based colleagues Carol Greider and Jack Szostak were jointly awarded the 100th Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of their work. Professor Blackburn is also the first female of Australia’s handful of Nobel laureates and the only Tasmanian recipient.

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One of four sisters she was born in Hobart in 1948. The family moved to Launceston where she attended Broadland House from 1953–1964. Whilst at Broadland she was awarded Dux of every class from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and won prizes for French, Music and Science.

She gained her BSc in 1970 and MSc in 1972 from the University of Melbourne and her PhD at Cambridge, England in 1975, and then went on to do her postdoctoral work in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Yale from 1975–1977. In 1978, Elizabeth joined the faculty at the University of California (Berkeley) in the Department of Molecular Biology and in 1990 joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of California.

Elizabeth’s most recent work has been in studying the aging of cells and the propagation of cancer cells. In this work she is recognised as the co-discoverer of Telomerase, the enzyme that makes and repairs telomeres, the DNA caps that protect the ends of the chromosomes, which also allowed her to describe the key enzyme necessary for chromosomes to make copies of themselves. The discovery gives hope for a deeper understanding of growth, ageing and disease.

Few have achieved what she has accomplished and her induction to the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women in 2008 for service to Science, is most appropriate. We honour Professor Blackburn for her curiosity which brought about a very important scientific breakthrough in the area of biological research.

Professor Blackburn is the recipient of the School’s Peter Sculthorpe Award for 2019.

Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh

Airline director and co-founder of Qantas, Sir Wilmot Fysh was the grandson of Henry Reed, grand-nephew of Sir Philip Oakley Fysh and great-uncle to Sir Philip Fysh, twice premier of Tasmania.

The outbreak of WWI saw Sir Wilmot enlist as a trooper in the 3rd Regiment of the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade. Serving in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine he was commissioned lieutenant in 1916 and transferred to the Australian Flying Corps as an observer. Sir Wilmot won the Distinguished Flying Cross and graduated as a scout pilot at Heliopolis, Egypt in 1919.

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Returning to Australia, he, along with another ex-service airman, Paul McGinness were commissioned by the government of the day to survey a section of the Longreach, Queensland to Darwin route. Their T-model Ford was the first car to journey overland to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

On 16 November 1920, Fysh and McGinness with western Queensland graziers Fergus McMaster, Ainslie Templeton and Alan Campbell formed the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services (QANTAS).

Operating with an Avro Dyak and an old BE2E war-disposals aircraft the company moved its head office from Winton to Longreach and engaged in taxi, ambulance and stock inspection services and joy riding.

An avid reader, he studied economics and took a course in Pelmanism (memory training). A shy, quiet man, he had great political acumen and a head for business. In 1923 he was appointed managing director of QANTAS. By this time, the airline had begun flying schools in Longreach and Brisbane, had constructed seven of its own aircraft, and was operating Australia’s first daily air-service.

An incredibly successful and inspiring alumni Sir Wilmot died on 6 April 1974 in Sydney survived by his wife, Elizabeth Dove.

Captain Victor Holyman and Sir Ivan Holyman

Captain Victor Holyman and Sir Ivan Holyman were born into a Tasmanian shipping family. Co-founders of Holyman’s Airlines in 1932 which after a number of mergers and takeovers later became part of Australian National Airlines.

Starting with a DH83 Fox Moth between Launceston and Flinders Island, Australian National Airlines emerged from WWII as Australia’s biggest domestic airline.

Victor, a WW1 pilot, was tragically killed in 1934 when his plane, Miss Hobart, crashed in Bass Strait.

The company continued to thrive under Ivan and by the early 1940s was the major airline for the nation linking Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania and Adelaide. In 1957 it was itself absorbed into Ansett-ANA.

Richard John Joyes

Launceston Grammar alumnus Richard Joyes was awarded the Cross of Valour for his efforts to rescue those in the Sari Club on 12 October 2002 during the Bali bombing.

Richard ran towards the bombsite and fought his way through intense flames to help rescue the wounded and carry them to safety. Despite the exploding gas cylinders, he ignored the ever-present risk and persisted in efforts to save a woman from a burning building then returned to check for more survivors.

For his efforts in rescuing those who were trapped Richard received Australia’s highest civil award for bravery. The citation read ‘For acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril’.

The Launceston Grammar alumnus became the fifth recipient of the Cross of Valour since its inception as part of the Australian honours system in 1975.

The honours system recognises and celebrates those who make a difference, who serve others and whose actions have set them apart. They help to demonstrate compassion, civility, dedication, courage, kindness, tolerance, and energetic ambition.

Richard’s bravery and compassion to care for those in need provides a positive role model for our students today and into the future.