Chancellor of the University of Sydney Belinda Hutchinson AM conferred the Honorary Fellowship on Lady Potter at a ceremony at the University on Tuesday 14 May.
“Lady Potter is a renowned patron for philanthropy in Australia and has been a pioneer in the philanthropic landscape in our country, with a relentless focus on discovery and excellence. For several decades she has provided an outstanding contribution across many spheres which has influenced the thinking and well-being of the wider community,” the Chancellor said.
At the ceremony, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence summarised Lady Potter’s achievements and acknowledged her contributions to the University of Sydney community.
Through the Ian Potter Foundation, which her late husband established in 1964, Lady Potter has supported the University in an array of fields including cancer and chronic disease research, environmental conservation, treatments for speech disorders, pharmacology, and music and the arts. The Foundation also funded travel grants for academics to attend training courses and conferences.
“Lady Potter is a passionate philanthropist who acknowledges the profound effect that advocacy and patronage can have on an establishment like the University of Sydney. We are an outstanding research and education institution today because of the vision and commitment of supporters like Lady Potter,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
In 2016, under her tenure as life governor, the Foundation conferred $5 million for the establishment of the Chau Chak Wing Museum on campus. The Museum – admission to which will be free – will contain the University’s scientific and cultural collections, including Australia’s largest collection of antiquities. Some if these objects will be housed in 'The Ian Potter Gallery', due to open in 2020.
Lady Potter’s ties to the University are also historical in nature: her grandfather, Sir Thomas Anderson Stuart, founded the medical school.
Outside of the University, her charitable impact, particularly on the arts, has been immense. She was founding Honorary Patron of the Melba Foundation; Founding Patron of the Victorian Opera Company; and Patron-in-Chief of The Melbourne Opera Company. The success of opera in Victoria – where there are five opera companies – has been largely credited to her.
Lady Potter has also served as director and Victorian Chairman of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, was founding director the Bell Shakespeare Company, director of the Australian Ballet School and is a life member of the Australian Ballet.
The fine arts, too, have benefitted from her patronage. She has been Patron of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; is current Patron of The Ian Potter Museum of Art at Melbourne University; Honorary Life Member of the National Gallery of Victoria; and was the founding benefactor of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
In 1988, she was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for her service to the arts and to the community. Then, in 2003, she became a Companion of the Order of Australia, for leadership in and encouragement of critical community growth through fundraising and philanthropy in the arts; sciences; education; and social welfare. In the same year, she received the highest ranking honour of the Italian Republic for “merit acquired by the nation” in literature; the arts; economy; public service; and social, philanthropic, and humanitarian activities.