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Our Story: the establishment of the Foundation

The Passe & Williams Foundation was established in 1986 by the late Mrs Barbara Williams to honour the memory of her two husbands, Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams.

  • Barbara Slatter was born in 1909 in Kenya.

    Growing up, Barbara channelled her creativity into fine art, which she later studied at the Edinburgh College of Arts. After this she moved to London, where she met Garnett Passe, a Medical Reserve Navy Officer who specialised in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (OHNS). Barbara was asked to create diagrams and illustrations for a medical book Garnett was writing, titled “The Singing Voice” (1933). On the cusp of WWII, after Barbara had returned to London following extensive travel in India, the two were married.

  • Edward Roland Garnett Passe graduated in dentistry from The University of Melbourne in 1926 before travelling to the United Kingdom to study medicine. He specialised in Otolaryngology and gained considerable eminence, notably as a pioneer in the surgical treatment of deafness. After serving with the Royal Navy in World War II, he returned to practice in London and very quickly established himself as an outstanding Otolaryngologist with an international reputation. As well as being a superb surgeon, he was an excellent sportsman and a talented sculptor. He married Barbara Slatter in 1939 and they lived in Weymouth Street, London. Garnett died as a relatively young man in 1952, aged 48.

  • Rodney Wellington Williams was educated at the Gilman School in Baltimore and Yale University. After serving in the US Navy during World War I, he served a stockbroking firm as a floor partner in charge of trading at the New York Stock Exchange until his retirement in 1936. He was an enthusiastic and multi-talented sportsman, and had a keen interest in art and historical preservation. He married Barbara Passe (nee Slatter) in 1968 and they lived in Charleston, South Carolina. He died sixteen years later in 1984, aged 91.

Our Establishment

During her marriage to Garnett, Barbara saw how difficult it was for a young surgeon to obtain specialist medical training in OHNS. After Garnett’s premature death, Barbara decided to address this inequality. Her ambition was to leave a large part of her estate to supporting medical research and specialist training in OHNS and despite criticism that the scope of use of the funding was too narrow, Barbara was unwavering in her vision.

After her marriage to Rodney Williams in 1968, Barbara continued with negotiations on her estate and following Rodney’s death in 1984, when he left a substantial bequest to Barbara, she determined to establish a single Trust to support OHNS in Australia, which would be dedicated to the memory of her two husbands. The Trust Deed was signed in 1986 to establish the Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation.

Barbara considered the establishment of the Foundation, which became operational after her death in 1991, as one of her most significant achievements. Barbara was clear that her bequest must only be used in the pursuit of excellence. The Trustees have remained faithful to her wishes and have encapsulated this principle in the motto that forms part of the crest of the Foundation, namely “Semper ad Excellentiam Persequendam” – Always in Pursuit of Excellence.

Want to learn more?

Download an extended history of the Passe & Williams Foundation, as written by the first Trustees, by clicking the link below.