Two distinguished UNE alumni presented with awards

Published 04 December 2009

parliamentThe University of New England has recognised the outstanding careers of two of its alumni: Max Hopper, a pioneer of distance education, and Emeritus Professor John Roberts, an internationally renowned geologist.

The Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb, presented Mr Hopper and Professor Roberts with UNE’s Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2009 during a function this week (Wednesday 2 December) at Parliament House, Sydney, hosted by the UNE Foundation and attended by the Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay.

Mr Hopper, who holds a UNE Bachelor of Arts degree, played a major and pioneering role in the establishment of distance education at UNE as the University’s Assistant Director and then Acting Director of External Studies. “At that time,” Professor Webb said, “UNE led Australia and the world in the development of modern post-war university distance education. This style of delivery provided the first and often the only opportunity in Australia for many working adults – and especially women – to undertake university degrees.”

Mr Hopper went on to become foundation Director of External Studies at the new University of Zambia in Lusaka. “His success in this position led to his recognition in Australia and overseas as a leader in the field of distance education,” Professor Webb said.

As foundation Director of the Gippsland Institute for Advanced Education (now Monash University Gippsland) Mr Hopper was responsible for the establishment, development and management of the new Institute, where he introduced UNE-style distance education programs to meet the needs of students outside the metropolitan area.

He was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to education.

Professor Roberts, who graduated from UNE as a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in Geology, spent his academic career at the University of New South Wales.

“John has made an international contribution to our understanding of the geological timescale – especially the Carboniferous Period – as well as a significant national contribution to the understanding of the sedimentary basins of eastern and Western Australia and of the New England region of eastern Australia,” Professor Webb said.

Professor Roberts’s major awards include the Stillwell Award of the Geological Society of Australia (twice), the Clarke Medal and Archibald D. Olle Prize of the Royal Society of NSW, a Commonwealth Bursary of the Royal Society of London, and a Harkness Fellowship of the Commonwealth Fund of New York.

Dr Geoffrey Fox, Chair of the UNE Foundation, welcomed more than 150 guests to the function, and thanked donors to the Foundation for their support in 2009.

Professor James Barber, who has been appointed to the position of UNE Vice-Chancellor – a role he will formally assume early next year – also took part in the function, speaking about the importance of alumni in maintaining the reputation of the University and the place of regional universities in their communities.

Clicking on the image of Parliament House, Sydney, displayed here reveals a photograph of (from left) UNE’s Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb, distinguished alumni Maxwell Hopper OAM and Emeritus Professor John Roberts, and the Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay.