Message from the Chancellor
JCU Chancellor Bill Tweddell reflects on his long association with JCU, how the University has changed, and what inspires him.
JCU is very much in my blood. My association with it goes back to 1968. I spent eight years studying and working at JCU, from 1968 to 1975. My wife, Chris, is a JCU graduate, and all of my four siblings obtained at least one degree from JCU, as did a sister-in-law and several nieces and cousins.
Both Chris and I were at JCU when it became a University in its own right on 20 April 1970, having previously been the University College of Townsville under the stewardship of the University of Queensland. This was an occasion of historical significance. The enabling Act establishing JCU is, in fact, the only Act of any Australian Parliament to have received the personal assent of the reigning monarch.
Chris was chosen as one of the students to meet the Queen – whilst I was given the much less important role of showing people to their seats! I didn’t get to meet the Queen till some 27 years later when I was Deputy High Commissioner in London!
After 40 years in the diplomatic service, it was a great joy to come back to JCU in March 2016 as Chancellor – the first JCU alumnus to be elected Chancellor. JCU provided me with my tertiary education, the intellectual foundations of my future career, and also my first full-time job. It honoured me as one of its Outstanding Alumni in 2010. Serving as Chancellor is my way of giving back.
A defining feature of JCU is its tropical focus and location and its research excellence in disciplines of particular relevance to the tropics. Our founders showed marvellous foresight and vision in mandating this tropical focus, in our own country and into the tropics worldwide.
Another part of our identity is as a university with many people who are the first in their family to attend university, many who are from regional and remote Australia, many of low socio-economic status and many from an Indigenous background. These are aspects of which I’m very proud and to which I have a strong personal commitment.
Every day I am reminded of just how much JCU is doing to achieve the vision that our far-sighted founders had for us. What Martin Nakata, our Pro Vice Chancellor for Indigenous Education and Strategy, is doing, for example, to increase completion rates for our Indigenous students. How researchers, like Louis Schofield, have dedicated their careers to solving huge public health problems such as malaria. How we are working toward better natural disaster preparedness via the work being done at the cyclone research centre. And Jodie Rummer’s work with baby sharks and how she believes that understanding the health of baby sharks will help save the reef and oceans and help the world respond to global warming.
A lot has changed in 50 years — 60 years really — and JCU has played a part in many positive developments in our immediate region and across the tropics. From its humble beginnings, JCU has grown to be a world leader in education and research on the tropics. We have become a vibrant, multi-campus university — a long way from the institution at which I commenced studies in 1968.