16 Feb 2024

News 2024

Ave Atque Vale: Robert Otto Albert

Robert Albert AO RFD RD 14 December 1934 – 07 February 2024

Benefactor, philanthropist, sailor, husband of Libby, father, grandfather, pianist Robert Albert AO RFD RD has died at the age of 89. Not only was he an astute businessman and generous supporter of the arts, his long-term and exceedingly generous support of St Paul’s College was unprecedented.  

Robert was at College 1953-56 and studied Arts/Law. He was elected Fellow 1981 including being the College Bursar from 1987 and retired from the College Council in 2001. His good efforts as Honorary Treasurer of the St Paul’s College Union spurred Lloyd Waddy to persuade him to help found and then chair the St Paul’s College Foundation in 1977. Robert went on to be its chairman, significant donor and fundraiser until he retired in 2016. Lloyd Waddy remembers:

When one night after a Council meeting, I suggested to another Fellow of the College, Robert’s father Sir Alexis Albert, that we should set up a tax-deductable Foundation, where I would do the work and he inspire the donors, he declined and said I should approach his (eldest) son, Robert, who enthusiastically agreed to become the chairman. After the launch and first year’s endeavours, Robert retained the chairmanship AND took the management into his own office. Whilst I remained virtually his deputy, I was very happy to read what my thoughts were when I received a copy of the annual reports! Robert not only endowed the Foundation, but guided it to its present position, retaining all donations as investments after the gifts of well over $20m as scholarships and donations aid to the College itself. Moreover, if there weren’t enough scholarships for all who deserved them, he would surreptitiously make private gifts to enable them.

A man of discrimination, generous with his time and assets, a lover of his fellow man and a wonderful husband and father, he was a profound exemplum of a College he always loved. For me he was a friend of over sixty years, ever a leader and an inspiration, often to be seen at College with the Wardens, in the chapel or dining in hall, St Paul’s College was in his blood.

The Foundation has become the main-stay of the fundraising effort for St Paul’s and has built a substantial capital fund which today supports around 80 students annually with scholarships. The St Paul’s College Foundation continues to grow for future needs thanks to the generosity of hundreds of annual donors.

Robert’s family has been connected with Paul’s for five generations. His father Sir Alexis Albert was not only a council chairman but also donor of the Flentrop pipe organ in 1972 and a significant donor to the chapel building appeal in the 1950s. Robert generously funded the refurbishment of the organ in 2019-20.

As Bursar Robert was instrumental in the creation of a ‘master plan’ to bring the built environment ‘back up to scratch’. This vision is a legacy enjoyed by all residents today. The Albert Wing is named in honour of the family because of their wonderful support throughout the modern era of the College. This significant 4 storey, sandstone-clad building was one of Robert’s great visions and was largely funded through his personal donations.  

The benefaction of the Albert Family guided by Robert has included over 90 charities, mostly in the arts, including the Australian Ballet (where he was on the board for many years), SSO, ACO, and Sydney Dance Company. His sailing and Naval interests also led to support for the Navy League and the Sydney Heritage Fleet, where he donated the family motor yacht “Boomerang”. He gave substantially to medical and community causes including Westmead Hospital and Mission Australia.

His long-standing and generous benefaction to the University of Sydney was recognised by the award of Honorary Fellow of the University in 2002. He was recognised by the nation when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1993 and again in 2001 when he was elevated to Officer (AO).

SMH Obituary Businessman Robert Albert dies (smh.com.au)