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News > Alumni Stories > Remembering Oscar Diethelm

Remembering Oscar Diethelm

College group photo, circa 1902
College group photo, circa 1902

Resident, 1901-1902; Council, 1928-1959

Today marks the birthday of one of St John’s College’s prominent alumni, Dr Oscar Albert Anton Diethelm, KCSG.  Oscar Diethelm was a resident from 1901 to 1902 and served as a Fellow of Council from 1928 until 1959.  He obtained his Bachelor’s and Masters’ degrees in Medicine from the University of Sydney.

Diethelm’s father migrated to Sydney from Switzerland in 1880 and his mother was born of Italian parentage on the goldfields of Sofala.  Coming from modest circumstances he achieved academic distinction early, being Dux of Sydney (Boys) High School and winning a slew of scholarships to the University.  His early career in general practice took him to Grafton, NSW and thence to a consulting practice and Honorary Consultant Physician at St Vincent’s Hospital with which he developed a lifelong association, along with his rooms in Macquarie St.  He was a foundation Fellow and Council member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and held senior appointments on hospital boards.  He served as a Fellow of St John’s for over 30 years.

The words of Rector Dr John Burnheim on his retirement express the high esteem in which he was held:

“It is with great reluctance that the Fellows of this College accept the resignation of Dr O.A. Diethelm, K.C.S.G., M.B., Ch.M., F.R.A.C.P., from the Council.  During the very great length of time over which Dr Diethelm has devoted himself to the College, he has been distinguished by the urbanity and fidelity he has shown in all his actions, and the depth of his concern for the best interests of the College as an institution of both the University and the Church.  The Council wishes Dr Diethelm many years of peaceful retirement, and assures him that, though the official bonds of common responsibilities have been severed, they hope to enjoy his continued friendship and help in the years to come.”

As a clinical lecturer at St Vincent’s, Dr Diethelm is remembered with great fondness and respect by students who felt privileged to have had his guidance, encouraging them to excellence in all their pursuits.  The joy he had for life permeated his work and showed in the way he genuinely cared for his patients and those dearest to him. 

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