Affectionate farewell for long-serving Narelle

Published 08 April 2008

Narelle Dowse, the Dining Hall Supervisor who retired last week after 38 years of devoted service in residential colleges at the University of New England, is fondly remembered by more than 10,000 former college residents.narelle.jpg

Some of those former residents returned to UNE for a farewell function for Narelle at Earle Page College on Thursday 3 April, while many others – including some well-known public figures – sent affectionate messages of appreciation from all over the world.

“Narelle leaves us after 38 years of exceptional service to the members of Earle Page College and (since it was built in 1972) 36 years of service to the members of Austin College,” said David Ward, Master of Earle Page. The current Master of Austin College, Dr Alan McKenzie, and Austin’s first Master, Dr Brian Seppelt, joined Mr Ward in expressing their heartfelt thanks to Narelle for the nurturing role she had played within the college “family”. They were enthusiastically supported by the assembled students of both colleges.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, said that the personal relationship Narelle had developed “with all those 10,000 students” was “a fantastic testament” to her contribution to the life of the colleges – and of the University as a whole.

Over the years Narelle and her fellow Dining Hall Supervisor Dianne Cundy (who has seen 34 years’ service at the two colleges) have brought life and laughter to the dining halls, dancing through their daily clearing-up ritual to the beat of ’60s rock ‘n’ roll music.

“When our alumni come back to the college they go straight to the kitchen to see Narelle and ‘Smiley’ (as Dianne is known at Earle Page),” Mr Ward said. He recalled that they had travelled with him in 2003 to Cambridge in the UK and San Francisco in the United States for reunion dinners to celebrate Earle Page College’s 40th anniversary. “I knew I had the ‘perfect weapon’ in Smiley and Narelle,” he said. “People flew in from Rome and Austria specially to see them.”

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with the students,” Narelle said. And, when asked to recall the highlights of her 38 years at the colleges, she replied: “Every new student.”

“The most satisfying thing is seeing them grow in confidence – and finally graduate –after coming here as timid kids out of school,” she said, explaining that college life was an important experience in the students’ “transition from school to adulthood”.

Finally, in a traditional farewell tribute given to only a special few at Earle Page College, everyone stood on the Dining Hall chairs and tables and sang “Piano Man” with gusto.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Dr Alan McKenzie (left) and David Ward giving Narelle an affectionate farewell.