UNE mourns the loss of Sir Zelman Cowen

Published 09 December 2011

zelman_cowenThe University of New England is mourning the loss of former Vice-Chancellor Sir Zelman Cowen.

While Sir Zelman might be more widely known to staff though his role as Governor-General of Australia from 1977 to 1982, he is remembered fondly for the innovation and drive he brought to UNE in its early years.

Sir Zelman was born in 1919 in Melbourne. He graduated in Arts and Law from Melbourne University and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1940, which he took up in 1945 after serving in the Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve.

He lectured at Oxford until 1951, when he returned to the University of Melbourne as Dean of the Law School, and was an academic lawyer of international reputation. In 1967 he took up the position of Vice-Chancellor at the University of New England (as pictured here).

UNE’s  Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said that Sir Zelman had described his three years at UNE as an enriching experience during which he had learnt a great deal about the business of being a Vice-Chancellor and about the Australian university system.

“His enthusiastic support for the establishment of a School of Hydrology paved the way for the current School of Environmental and Rural Science, which remains one of the largest and most respected agriculture and environmental science schools in Australia,” Professor Barber said.

In 1978 Sir Zelman said: “My life in universities, and particularly as a Vice-Chancellor, has taught me many things and has yielded up experience which is very valuable to me in my present office.”

From UNE he went on to become the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Queensland and then the Governor-General of Australia.

The Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, said the University had benefited immeasurably from Sir Zelman’s leadership and association.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” Mr Torbay said.