A long and distinguished career for former student and academic

Published 19 November 2018

Bill Griffiths - Bachelor of Agricultural Economics (First Class Honours and University Medal), 1967

Statistically speaking, there was always a very strong probability that Bill Griffiths would one day be named a UNE Distinguished Alumni.

He graduated from University of New England with First Class Honours and a University Medal in 1967, undertook a PhD in the US, and was Professor of Econometrics for 32 years, first at UNE and then at the University of Melbourne.

UNE was still developing its residential colleges when a young Bill arrived in 1963 and found his digs in an old house the university had rented in the heart of Armidale.

"They would bus us up the hill to classes and meals every day," Bill says.

"Being together with a relatively small number of fellow students meant that close friendships developed."

He remembers fondly "all the balls and cabarets" and playing 3rd grade rugby union for the newly established Earle Page College.

The intimate size of the university also enabled close staff-student relationships.

"It was a small, friendly university environment," Bill says.

"Agricultural Economics/Econometrics Professor Takashi Takayama was instrumental in directing me towards an academic career by encouraging me to go to the US to do a PhD."

When he returned to Australia in 1972, Bill gravitated quite naturally back to Armidale and went on to become a long-serving staff member of the Department of Econometrics (initially the Department of Economic Statistics).

"Ours was a close-knit department," Bill says.

"We were all good friends, with frequent social outings at restaurants and in people’s homes. Distinguished international visitors were always well entertained."

Regular lunchtime tennis matches on UNE's clay court - some more competitive than others - proved therapeutic.

"One could relieve the stress of the morning’s frustrating committee meetings by belting that little yellow ball," Bill says.

Moving to the University of Melbourne in 2001, Bill served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Director of the Centre for Microeconometrics, Deputy Head of the Department of Economics and finally head of the department from 2013-15.

He has also held visiting appointments at Louisiana State University and at the universities of Georgia (Athens), Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) and California (Berkeley), and was elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 1995.

Econometrics - the application of statistical methods to economic data - continues to engage Bill as an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne.

"It plays a vital role in policy decisions made by all our governments," he says.

"Advice given by departments such as Treasury, the Productivity Commission, Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Department of Social Services all rely heavily on econometric modelling."