Vale Robert Alick Robson CBE (1948)

Rob and his granddaughter Kate at 2019 OCA Dinner


Born in 1927 in Middle Park, Melbourne, only child to Cecil and Minnie, Robbie was Captain and Dux of Melbourne High School before attaining a scholarship to study civil engineering at Melbourne University. Training with the military engineering corps in World War II, Rob then took up his engineering studies at the University’s Mildura branch. It was here he met lifelong friends Noel and Dorothy Blennerhassett, who introduced Rob to Joan, his beloved wife of 68 years.

Robbie was in residence at Ormond College from 1948 to 1951. A well-remembered occupant of the three-windowed study above Ormond’s main entrance, Rob was also a keen rugby player, captaining the seconds team in 1950. Thus began a treasured lifelong connection with Ormond. Maintaining a keen interest in college affairs, Rob was central to the establishment of the Ormond College Association (OCA) in 1973. Reborn from the Old Ormond Students’ Association at the time when Ormond welcomed its first women student residents, the OCA sought to ‘broaden its base for membership’ and increase engagement. Rob was unanimously elected as inaugural OCA President. Years later, he delighted in attending the 2019 OCA Dinner with granddaughter Kate Robson (Ormond 2002), delivering a memorable address (and song!).

Rob and Joan were married in 1953, and Rob began work as a civil engineer with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, during which time he designed the Elwood canal. Rob then joined Rocla Concrete Pipes, relocating to South Africa in 1957 to with Joan and sons Mark and Brett (Ormond 1974) to establish the company there. Son Craig was born in 1958, and the family spent 8 years in South Africa, creating many treasured memories of travel and adventures. Returning to Australia in 1965 when Rob became Rocla’s NSW State Manager, the homeward voyage took them up the east coast of Africa to India on British East steamer SS Karanja and  through Southeast Asia.

Rob was national manager for Rocla, before becoming Managing Director for Blue Metal Industries, and later Managing Director of Westpac’s Australian Guarantee Corporation Limited. He was a dedicated member of peak economic planning body Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). In 1980, Rob was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to industry. Officially retiring aged 62, Rob continued as a non-executive director on several company boards for another decade.

An avid sailor and keen fisherman throughout his life, Rob spent many hours on the water with his family and friends. He entered the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race with his own beloved ‘Quetzel’ in 1984 and 1986. Later in life, he enjoyed croquet, theatre, cinema and all things computers.

Rob died peacefully in November 2021 with wife Joan at his side; she died 6 weeks later.  They are remembered by sons and daughters-in-law Mark and Marea, Brett and Jane, and Craig and Sharon, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Written by Rob’s granddaughter Kate Robson (2002).

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