Vale Dr Bernard 'Bernie' Curran AM

Bernie has been an integral part of our University of Newcastle community for more than 50 years; as a student, rugby player, sports leader, academic, mentor, fundraiser, active alumnus, donor, researcher and, most of all, a compassionate friend to many.

Bernie embodied the meaning of the word Philanthropy and inspired many others to have a ‘love for humankind’. He somewhat ‘lit the torch’ for us in our Alumni and Philanthropic engagement and we will continue to carry that torch knowing we stand on his shoulders. Our local Newcastle community was his home ground but I know our community further afield have also been touched by his warmth, encouragement and generosity of spirit over the years.

In 2018, Bernie was recognised by the University with an Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service. His outstanding contributions were also recognised nationally in 2018, when he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to tertiary education, particularly through higher learning opportunities for young people in rural areas.

After graduating from the University with first class honours and a PhD in Classics in 1972, Dr Curran worked as a lecturer at the University of Newcastle from 1976 to 2001, teaching classics. During these years he was heavily involved in the culture of the University, and from 1989 to 1996 he was the Foundation Warden for Evatt House, a residential college for country students.

Rugby was Bernie’s other great and abiding passion. A former captain of the First XV and Anderson medal winner, in 1983, he became the University Rugby Club President and held the position for five years. He was awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1987, with a University Colour in 1988 in recognition of his exceptional contribution. Bernie has maintained a deep connection with the University Rugby Club and is respected as one of the club’s foremost ‘legends’.

As President of the Sports Union from 1985-1993, Bernie played a critical role in the long process of planning, developing and realising The Forum Sports and Aquatic Centre, serving as Chair (1998-2002) and then Deputy Chair (2005-2014) of NUsport. Bernie was also the University Council appointed representative of the University of Newcastle Sports Union Executive from 1977-1980, and received honorary life membership in 1993.

From a personal perspective, Bernie has been a voice of sage counsel and great kindness since I first came to Newcastle in 2018. Generous in his time and robust in his advice when needed, Bernie provided the best possible support to a new Vice-Chancellor. It was a great pleasure to stand with him and open the Bernie Curran Oval in 2019, named in his honour for his exceptional contributions to rugby and University sport.

Bernie was a great contributor to our University and to the community, and I know that he would have continued to serve for as long as he was able. His untimely passing is a loss for us all. The University passes on its deepest condolences to Bernie’s wife Mary, his children Penny, Elizabeth and James, their mother Jeannie, his many grandchildren and all of the broader Curran family.

Great of heart, mighty of spirit. A friend to many and a champion of the University for all of its days.

Vale Bernie. You will be deeply missed. Rest in peace.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.