Edwina Ridgway’s outstanding service to the community is recognised by former students of the University of New England now living all over the world.
She’s been receiving messages of congratulation from many of them – from Australia and abroad – ever since the announcement yesterday of her inclusion in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List. “The first one from overseas was from Paris,” she said. “They’ve all been such appreciatively warm messages.”
Mrs Ridgway, who has assisted the personal growth of almost 5,000 students within UNE’s residential system over the past 38 years, has been honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia for her “service to the community – particularly through the University of New England”. “It’s a very humbling experience,” she said. “My first thought was: “Why me? I’ve just been doing all the things that I really love to do.”
Mrs Ridgway joined the staff of UNE’s Duval College in 1973, became the College’s Acting Principal in 1976, and Principal – a position she still holds – in 1978. She has also been Principal of Drummond & Smith College since 2000, and Head of the University’s Wright Village apartments since 2009.
“It’s very rewarding to be able to provide young people with a value-added experience of university life, and to see them going on to take up responsible positions both within their chosen professions and within the community,” she said. “They become like an extended family: there’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an e-mail from somewhere in the world with wedding photographs or photographs of the latest offspring.”
“I’ve been extremely fortunate,” Mrs Ridgway said. “It’s been an enormous privilege to spend this time working at UNE within its residential system – a unique college system that I believe will continue to enhance and contribute an aspect of personal development to students’ lives.”
In welcoming the news of Mrs Ridgway’s award, the Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, said: “When I started work at the UNE Union in 1980 Edwina Ridgway was already an institution and a legend. This award is an appropriate acknowledgement of her many years of dedicated service, leadership and genuine care for students in the UNE college system, and for the University as a whole and the wider community.”
Mrs Ridgway served as President and Treasurer of the Australian Heads of Colleges and Halls Association from 1982 to 1989, and was the Association’s regional representative from 1978 to 1986. She also served as the elected General Staff Representative on the UNE Council from 1999 to 2002.
“It’s all been an extremely enriching experience – and so fulfilling,” she said. “That’s the real reward.”
Clicking on the image of the Medal of the Order of Australia displayed here reveals a photograph of Edwina Ridgway OAM.