Graduands urged to use their ‘passion’ to ‘make a difference’

Published 31 March 2012

The last of the University of New England’s four Autumn Graduation ceremonies for 2012 saw about 280 people receive their testamurs today from the Chancellor, Richard Torbay.

The Occasional Address at today’s ceremony was given by Alan Beasley, who holds a Bachelor of Economics degree from UNE and has had a distinguished career in Investment Banking, Financial Services, and Investment Management. Mr Beasley said that his three years at UNE had been one of the highlights of a “most fortunate life”.

He congratulated all the graduands, urging them to use their “passion and enthusiasm” to “make a difference”. Noting that many of them were about to enter the health professions, he spoke about experiences within his own family that had made him “appreciate the contribution that health professionals make to society”.

During the past 10 years, he said, he had focused his career on raising capital for small, innovative companies – including several in the health and life sciences sectors – and had thus been “exposed to the professional, financial and administrative challenges and complexities of those sectors”.

In introducing Mr Beasley, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said that he had “used his considerable expertise not just for his own gain but as a very charitable member of Australian society”.

Today’s ceremony was for those graduating in disciplines related to the sciences as well as medicine and health. Among the 21 people graduating with doctoral degrees were James Clayton and Melissa Danks. Dr Clayton, who works for National Parks  in central Australia, studied the possibility of reintroducing the mala, or “rufous hare-wallaby” (now surviving only in captivity), into the wild at Uluru. Dr Danks, who works at the Australian Museum in Sydney and in research based at the University of Sydney, examined the ecological importance of the relationship between the swamp wallaby and the truffle fungi it feeds on.

(THE PHOTOGRAPH of Dr James Clayton displayed above expands to include Dr Melissa Danks and UNE’s Dr Karl Vernes, who supervised the two PhD projects.)

Three University Medals were presented at today’s ceremony. One of the medal winners, Joanna Newton, who achieved First Class Honours in graduating as a Bachelor of Rural Science, also won the Edgar H. Booth Memorial Prize and Medal for her academic achievements, and a New England Award for her involvement in extra-curricular activities within the University and Armidale communities.

In delivering the Vote of Thanks on behalf of the graduates at the end of the ceremony, Ms Newton emphasised that it was “the people” who had “made the UNE campus so special” for her. “To the lecturers,” she said, “you’re not just another face in a crowded lecture hall”. And the living environment in the colleges provided “support and a sense of family”. She mentioned that one of the best friends she had made at UNE had flown back from Vietnam to see her graduate today.

The Hon. John Watkins, who worked as a teacher for 16 years before his election to the NSW Parliament in 1995, was the Occasional Address speaker at yesterday’s ceremony for people graduating from within UNE’s School of Education. He told the graduands that they were “part of that most precious national resource – Australia’s teachers”.

Mr Watkins (pictured here), who served as Deputy Premier of NSW from 2005 to 2008, held a number of Ministerial positions, including that of Minister for Education and Training. Now Chief Executive Officer of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, he is involved in some of the major ageing and dementia challenges facing the NSW community over coming years.

“More important than mining infrastructure, more productive than any stimulus package – you are Australia’s walking, breathing future fund,” Mr Watkins told the graduands. “Your choice of education as a profession will bring lasting benefit to hundreds of communities and tens of thousands of students – many not yet born – over the next half a century.”

The Iraqi Cultural Attaché in Australia & New Zealand, Professor Dr Fadhil Farhood Makki Al-Joborae, who was visiting UNE, was the Chancellor’s Official Guest at yesterday’s ceremony.