Austin alumni return to celebrate College anniversary

Published 22 October 2012

More than 100 University of New England alumni came back to Armidale at the weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of UNE’s Austin College.

The former Austin residents – mainly from the College’s early years in the 1970s – travelled from around Australia to take part in the celebration.

Among the highlights of the weekend was the unveiling of a portrait of the College’s first Master, Dr Brian Seppelt, during a formal dinner in the Austin Dining Hall on Saturday evening. The painter of the portrait, Jane Nash, was among the guests.

“The weekend was a fantastic success,” said the Head of the College, Andrea Gledhill. “And the talk by our guest speaker at the dinner – Phil Hogan – was hilarious.”

Mr Hogan, from Mollymook on the NSW South Coast, lived in the College from 1973 to 1977 while studying for his Bachelor of Economics degree and Diploma of Education. “Living here was great because everything was new and exciting,” he said. “And over time it developed a real community spirit. Doc Seppelt got rid of all elitism from the common-room system, everyone was equal, and respect for fellow students was paramount.”

Anne Cheetham (née Richardson) recalled her arrival at the College in 1972, when building was still unfinished and the initial 40 residents shared dining facilities with the residents of Earle Page College next door. “I absolutely loved it,” she said. “We were a very sociable college.”

Graduating from UNE with a Bachelor of Economics degree and a Diploma of Education, Ms Cheetham became a secondary-school careers adviser after two years of teaching. “As a careers adviser I always promoted UNE – and particularly Austin College,” she said.

The visitors at the weekend were impressed with a massively enlarged photograph of College residents and staff members taken at the first formal dinner in 1972, and a contrasting photograph taken at a formal dinner earlier this year. “They loved the photographs,” Ms Gledhill said. “And those who were in the 1972 group were photographed again as a group with Brian Seppelt. Dr Seppelt and his successor as Master of Austin College, Dr Alan McKenzie, attended the celebrations.

Many of the weekend visitors took advantage of the option to stay in the room they had occupied as a student, and three of the rooms were even decorated to look as they might have done in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Established in 1972, Austin College is the youngest of UNE’s colleges, and now provides a home for 288 residents.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed above expands to show Dr Alan McKenzie (left) , Andrea Gledhill and Dr Brian Seppelt cutting the 40th Anniversary cake.