Richard Grellman AM Awarded Honorary Doctorate

Richard Grellman AM Awarded Honorary Doctorate
Richard Grellman AM Awarded Honorary Doctorate

Pictured L-R: Scientia Professor Perminder Sachdev AM, Richard Grellman AM & Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO.


Richard Grellman AM has been awarded the University’s highest honour in recognition of his eminent services to both the Australian community and to UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA).

At the UNSW Medicine graduation ceremony on Monday, 6 May, the University’s Chancellor, David Gonski AC, awarded Richard Grellman a Doctor of the University, honoris causa, for his extraordinary support of the Centre’s research activities, and his exemplary service to the broader community in promoting healthy ageing and destigmatising dementia.

“A powerful advocate for societal change, Richard has dedicated himself to campaigns that highlight the risk factors for dementia and the need to actively reduce one’s own risk of dementia, particularly as Ambassador for the highly successful Wipeout Dementia surf fundraiser,” said Dean of Medicine, Professor Rodney Phillips, in the citation commending Mr Grellman.

Professor Phillips told the audience that as a highly regarded corporate leader and strategic thinker, Mr Grellman was capable of dealing with just about any crisis, but admits nothing could have prepared him for adjusting to his wife's dementia.

“Suellen Grellman was diagnosed with young onset Alzheimer's disease and moved into a residential care facility aged just 63. Her specialist physician was UNSW Sydney Scientia Professor of Ageing and Mental Health and Co-Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, Professor Henry Brodaty AO.

Richard admits that watching his wife's deterioration has been a journey with no guiding compass, but with his characteristic determination he has, since 2014, channelled his remarkable energy toward seeking philanthropic support for research undertaken by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing; which has assisted in the procurement of millions of dollars for the Centre. Beyond Richard’s charitable role in the field of dementia as Spokesman for The Dementia Momentum initiative at this Centre, he also sits on the Board of the National Health and Medical Research Council National Institute for Dementia Research,” said Professor Phillips.

In his Occasional Address, Mr Grellman said he was humbled by the singular honour and felt most unworthy but nonetheless immensely grateful to the Council of UNSW for bestowing upon him the degree of Doctor of the University, honoris causa.

“I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to support the work of UNSW in the field of dementia research. Through the wonderful work undertaken by CHeBA, its Co-Directors Scientia Professors Henry Brodaty and Perminder Sachdev and their highly committed colleagues, it has been and continues to be a privilege to play a small part. Given that my role as Spokesman for The Dementia Momentum has focussed on corporate engagement and improving awareness of aspects of dementia and also fundraising for research, I needed a person within CHeBA to assist me and Heidi Douglass has been this person. A very significant part of what has been achieved is directly attributable to Heidi and her energetic and creative support. I also acknowledge the many hundreds of people and organisations who have donated to this cause, some of whom are here today,” said Mr Grellman.

In a heart-warming moment Mr Grellman dedicated his honorary doctorate to wife Suellen and acknowledged his children James, Sarah and Ben for their encouragement for his involvement with CHeBA as well as their active participation in events.

Mr Grellman spoke sincerely to the University graduates, acknowledging their milestone and offered up his personal advice on how to make the most of opportunities around careers, particularly by looking after their own health, cultivating special relationships throughout life and developing one’s own spirituality.

“This may be your own faith journey which, if you have a personal belief system, will only grow if you foster it. But I would broaden this area out to include anything that does not feed your bank account. Volunteering/community service/not-for-profits, environmental issues or supporting that elderly neighbour,” said Mr Grellman.

“I encourage each of you to keep these thoughts in mind going forward. Whatever you call it, work/life balance is not just a quip; strive for it,” he said.

Mr Grellman concluded by wishing all graduates every success as they move into the next chapter of your lives and concurred with the Chancellor’s suggestion to stay actively engaged with the University.

“Following this ceremony, don’t simply walk through the gate never to return. Instead, find ways to remain involved as proud and respected alumni and allow yourselves the advantage of developing a lifelong and rewarding connection with the UNSW,” said Mr Grellman.

CHeBA’s Co-Directors Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty and Scientia Professor Perminder Sachdev, along with Heidi Douglass, congratulated Dr Grellman on this very well-deserved honour.

“He is an extraordinary and compassionate individual who, while dealing with the heartbreaking complexities of young onset Alzheimer’s disease, has been able to not only drive significant funding to CHeBA’s research, but also dedicated himself to CHeBA’s vision and key messages and represented on every single occasion requested of him,” said Mrs Douglass.

“We would certainly not have achieved the level of support or interest across our corporate and community outreach without Richard Grellman.”

Watch the ceremony at UNSW Graduation 6 May 2019 [scroll to 1:12:37 for Mr Grellman's award].

For more information about The Dementia Momentum, of which Dr Grellman is Spokesman, visit The Dementia Momentum website.

For more information about Wipeout Dementia, of which Dr Grellman is Ambassador, visit the Wipeout Dementia website.

Communications Contact

Communications contact: Heidi Douglass, Communications and Projects OffierHeidi Douglass
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