Jewish Ozzies' Inter.Net
The electronic voice of the Australian Jewish Community


Letters from Jewish Australia


In Memorium Z”L

24.10.1922 – 17.6.2012

Ask any long time residents of Darling Point about Alan Milston and they would respond that they knew him as a local identity who had a passion for walking. They would remember shared greetings, his friendliness and stubborn refusal, even at age 89, to accept any assistance or a lift. He used to say, ”I’m going to live to 100, or die trying”.

Alan Milston OAM, who passed away on 17th June, 2012, was also known for his philanthropy, brilliant mind, positive outlook and contribution to many communal organisations. He was awarded the OAM for his services to the engineering profession, devotion to the training of public speaking through the Rostrum Clubs, work for the Lions Club, and for his untiring contribution to the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University.

Alan’s Jewish grandparents were born in Kiev, Odessa, Lvov and Sydney. His parents lived in Leichhardt, having associated with the Great Synagogue for many years. He was proud to have discovered that his great, great grandmother was a convict.

Born in Sydney on October 24, 1922, Alan, from an early age, had excelled in Mathematics and Science. His interest in Science led him to Astronomy and he learnt the positions of the stars and followed the movements of the planets. In 1930 and 1931 he watched the erection of the steel arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. During most of his school vacations he worked in his parent's business, "Milstons Gift Store", but decided to be the first in his family to attend Sydney University.

In the 1938 NSW Leaving Certificate, Alan came 4th in Physics and was awarded First Class Honours in Mathematics and a University Exhibition. During his five years at Sydney University, Alan spent most of his time at lectures, practical work and studying. He also found time to become Secretary, and later President of the Physics Society, to coach students in Maths and Physics and to be a member of the Zionist Youth Group "Shomrim". At University Alan won four scholarships for Maths and Physics. A few months before his final examinations in September 1943, the RAAF advertised for Civil Engineering graduates to serve as officers in Air Field Construction Squadrons. Alan graduated with 2nd Class Honours and joined the RAAF on December 4, 1943. He worked on Air Field Construction in New Guinea, Dutch New Guinea and on Labuan Island.

Alan commenced practice as a Consulting Structural Engineer in December 1957 and served as President of the Association of Consulting Structural Engineers of NSW. He wrote the History of the Association and was in 1990 elected a Life Member. Amongst the many prestigious projects completed by his firm, Miller, Milston and Ferris, were the High Court Building and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, the Entertainment Centre and Australia Square. He proved to be an outstanding “structural engineer and designer of prowess” (John Ferris). Demonstrating his belief in lifelong education, at the age of 58, he obtain a Masters of Engineering Science from UNSW.

He was also very active in the Rostrum Clubs of NSW to which he owed his public speaking skills. He was Development Officer from 1963 to 1985 and since 1986 was its National Historian and Archivist. "Rostrum in Australia 1930-1965" took three years to write, and he was justifiably awarded the Gold Medal of Australian Rostrum. He was involved in the formation of over 50 new Rostrum Clubs.

Alan joined the Bondi Lions Club in 1962 and for 34 years organised the Bondi Lions section of the Lions Youth of the Year Quest. He was made a Life Member twice – in 1997 and 2012, the only Australian to achieve this . He was responsible for the running of the Lions Peace Poster Competition for many years involving primary schools in the Eastern suburbs. Credit must also be given for his involvement in providing Lions scholarships for needy students to complete their education.

The Hebrew University Jerusalem greatly valued Alan's long and dedicated service. He served continuously as Treasurer on the executive of the NSW Friends for almost sixty years, and from its first meeting held 28 May 1947, Alan was elected Federal Treasurer of the Australian Friends. Alan was Federal President of the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University from 1979 to 1982. He was elected an Honorary Governor of the Hebrew University in June 1980 and attended five Board of Governors meetings in Jerusalem. In recognition of his tireless efforts and support, the Hebrew University conferred an Honorary Fellowship upon him in 1996. 

Playing Bridge was also an important part of his life. He was always in demand to play socially due to his skill and his non argumentative personality, but his real love was the challenge of duplicate competition. He represented NSW three times in interstate Bridge competitions, playing with his wife Marcia and his son, John. Alan and Marcia won the mixed State Masters Pairs in 1983.

Alan was proudly Australian and proudly Jewish. He supported over 100 charities on a regular basis. He was happily married to Marcia (nee Apte) for 52 years, devoting himself to caring for her last 13 years as Parkinson’s disease took over her life. He leaves three children, John, Karen and David, and seven grandchildren – a tight knit family who model his ways and evoke his guidance into the next generation. His belief in education was a powerful driver in his life, and is reflected in his work for the growth and development of youth at the Hebrew University, and with the Rostrum and Lions Organisations.

Karen Pisk

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