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Bond celebrates former students' success at the Alumni Awards

As a young girl riding BMX bikes and playing beside the creek in Brisbane, Fiona de Jong could never have dreamed she would one day be travelling the world leading Australia's Olympic movement.

Her career course changed forever when she studied at Bond University and fell in love with triathlon - a sport she would compete in internationally and that would open doors she never thought possible.

Last year, Ms de Jong was appointed as the Secretary General (CEO) of the Australian Olympic Committee after ten years as the Director of Sport for the organisation, and she has just notched up her latest in a long line of achievements - being recognised with Bond University's most prestigious accolade, The Robert Stable Alumni Medal.

Ms de Jong is among three exceptional graduates to be recognised at the Bond University Alumni Awards, with President and CEO of Ferrari Australasia, Herbert Appleroth awarded for Exceptional Community Achievement and Australian Government Department of Social Services policy officer Matthew McLean taking home the Alumni Student Award.

Ms de Jong said she was 'humbled' by the opportunity to play such an integral role in the Olympics in a sports-mad country like Australia.

"I've come such a long way, from a little girl in Brisbane to working in such an extraordinary organisation that I am so passionate about," she said.

"To be part of the Olympic movement in Australia is more than a job - it's the opportunity to be a custodian of something that lives in the hearts and minds of millions of Australians.

"My advice to other young people out there is if you're willing to be open, to try new things, to dream really big, work hard and pursue your passion, amazing things can happen."

Ms de Jong, who commenced her degree in Law and Information Technology at Bond University in 1992, said she hoped to be a role model for other young athletes to recognise there were strong career opportunities after sport.

"One of the challenges we have in Australia with our athletes is them not believing they can have a duality of careers, to be an athlete and to prepare for life after sport," she said.

"Having walked that path, I know that it is tough but more athletes need to know you can do both.

"I truly believe a healthy body means a healthy mind and sport plays a critical role in university life.

"I would strategically choose my subjects around triathlon, so in winter when there were no races I would do the harder subjects and in summer do the easier ones - but I quickly realised, when I was in heavy training, I actually studied better.

"It is so important to keep a balance in life."

Ms de Jong said her time at Bond University had been 'formative'.

"It provided me the opportunity to study Law and IT, when most other universities weren't offering that double degree, and in an accelerated way, which has been important to me in forming a great career," she said.

"Secondly, at Bond, I fell in love with my sport of triathlon and the fantastic facilities played a part in me pursuing that path, with the flexibility offered allowing my dream of competing for Australia while studying.  My lecturers were always available when I needed them, sometimes at 8pm at night.

"And the third chapter was more recently, when I had an opportunity to do an Executive MBA through a Bond alumni scholarship to study at Harvard Business School. As I walked out of my final law exam at Bond I recall saying I would 'never, never, never study again' and then I added a caveat, 'except, perhaps an MBA at Harvard' - so sometimes you should be careful what you wish for.

"From day one, Bond has been opening doors of opportunity and while you have to walk through those doors, without them being there, you could never do that."

Ms de Jong said having a son last year had made her truly understand the positive impact of education.

"It is the greatest gift you can give a young person and is really a launching pad for what you do for the rest of your life," she said.

Herbert Appleroth, current President and CEO of Ferrari Australasia, graduated from Bond University with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1995, and has since gone on to live his boyhood dream of leading some of the world's most prestigious motoring companies, most notably Audi, Maserati and Ferrari. 

However, it is his service to the community that was acknowledged at Bond University's Alumni Awards Ceremony, receiving the Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Achievement.

Mr Appleroth quickly climbed the corporate ladder after graduating from Bond, becoming General Manager of Ferrari and Maserati Australia at the young age of 26 and later moving to Italy to take on the role of Global Marketing Director of the company.

In 2008, Mr Appleroth took a two year sabbatical from his corporate responsibilities to return to Australia to join The Board of Oncology Children's Foundation (OCF), a not-for-profit organisation now known as the Kids Cancer Project.

His corporate experience applied to this role saw OCF achieve a number of industry firsts, such as the creation of C4, a government sponsored consortium that brings together the best children's cancer research units to share their latest developments with absolute IP protection.

Continuing his philanthropy on a global scale once he returned to the corporate world of Ferrari, Mr Appleroth spearheaded a fundraising effort that saw over one millions dollars raised to build two school facilities in Ishinomaki, Japan, following the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami that killed nearly 16,000 people in 2011.

Mr Appleroth said his advice to young Bondies hoping to succeed post-graduation was to work hard from the outset and reap the rewards down the track.

"Hit the ground running, work as hard as you can right from the start. You've got to roll up your sleeves and do more than what everyone else around you is doing to gain a competitive edge," he said.

"Bond really prepared me for the real world. I worked long hours, had access to the best lecturers in the business world, and learnt how to work effectively as part of a team - all skills that allowed me to slot straight into work after graduation."

Matthew McLean, who graduated last year, said his time at Bond University steered him toward a career as a policy officer for the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

“It is rewarding to know that our policy has a direct impact on vulnerable Australians, such as those receiving welfare, the homeless, disabled and aging,” he said.

“Our mission is improving the lifetime wellbeing of Australians, so it is easy to get out of bed and go to work when you know you’re playing a small part in that.

“Bond, I find, is a gift that keeps on giving. I left 18 months ago and every day, whether it is the skills I learned or the networks I formed, I continue to benefit from my experience at Bond.”

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