Farewell Sue O'Connor
"It is a very big part of my life and my family's life," Sue O'Connor said of the University on the eve of her retirement after 43 years of service.
"I met my husband here, our daughter is a graduate of UON and I have made many lifelong friends." (Sue is married to Professor John O'Connor, Head of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences).
"But I can honestly say that I have not stayed through inertia. I am passionate about the work we do and I feel very fortunate to have had five very different roles during my time here," Sue said.
A Novocastrian since the age of six, Sue joined the University in 1971 as an office assistant in Student Administration. She leaves manager of the University's Research Information Management System (RIMS).
"I had always wanted to work at the University. As a school student, I wasn't particularly happy with the traditional career options for girls which in those days focussed on nursing or teaching," Sue said.
She credits her father for setting her career in motion.
"He insisted my four brothers and I had 'skills', so I enrolled in typing and shorthand class on Saturday mornings."
When her request to join a Year 10 woodwork class was denied simply for being female, Sue made the bold move to leave school and took a typing job in the private sector.
"When I came to work at the University, I went back and did my HSC at night school," Sue said.
"I'm pretty certain I would have gone back anyway, but working at the Uni certainly gave me a new appreciation for education."
Sue went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Epidemiology at UON. She is passionate about education being a right not a privilege.
"Knowing that we are all responsible for educating the leaders of tomorrow has been a major reason I've looked forward to coming to work every day for all these years," Sue said.
Sue also speaks fondly of the relationships she has forged at the University, particularly in her time working in Human Ethics.
"The interaction with students and researchers and seeing them achieve their milestones are some of my fondest memories."
Another of Sue's lasting memories, will be the time of the Great Hall project which was built through community contributions.
"There was a tremendous connection to our community during that time," Sue reflected.
"The recent graduation ceremony in town reminded me of that time. It was wonderful to be back among the community. I can see lots of opportunities for the University to strengthen that relationship again."
In contemplating retirement, Sue had found it difficult to put a time on it.
"I'm not sure why really, but as the year began it just felt like the right time," Sue said.
Sue and John will travel London later this year for John's three month sabbatical at Imperial College in London. After that Sue looks forward to doing some community work.
"We leave in July – the day after the 50th Anniversary Gala Reunion. It will be a great way to end my years here," Sue said.
A fitting send off for someone who has given so much to the University of Newcastle. We thank you, Sue.
Sue's career at UON
Office Assistant, Student Administration
1978 – 81
Administration Officer, Hunter Valley Heart Attack Study
1981 - 86
Invited to support the set up of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CCEB) under Professor Steve Leeder
1987 - 91
Returned to the CCEB after the birth of first child as a part time research assistant
Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts
Returned after the birth of second child as a Human Research Ethics Officer in Research Services
Seconded to work on a project to revamp Human Research Ethics processes
2008 - 10
Became subject matter expert on Human Ethics for the implementation of new Research Information Management System (RIMS)
2010 - Current