The University of Newcastle, Australia

Honorary degrees awarded to renowned leaders

Monday, 16 December 2019

Prominent politicians, an acclaimed journalist, and a champion for the visually impaired are among those who will receive Honorary Doctorates at the University of Newcastle’s graduation ceremonies this week.

The ceremonies will not only recognise the achievements of more than 1,000 students, but also acknowledge the contributions to society of six eminent leaders, who will receive Honorary Doctorates for exceptional services to their fields.

Former Senator for NSW, the Honourable Arthur Sinodinos AO, will receive an Honorary Doctorate for his outstanding service to politics and public service.

Mr Sinodinos, who starts a new role as the Australian Ambassador to the USA next year, is himself a graduate of the University of Newcastle, and credits his education for preparing him for an esteemed career that has spanned four decades.

“It’s a great honour to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by my alma mater, the University of Newcastle,” Mr Sinodinos said.

“My education at Newcastle opened my mind to the broader world and the power of ideas. It also instilled a respect for the importance of lifelong learning and rigorous, evidence-based inquiry.”

Expressing similar sentiment for the region is fellow awardee, the Honourable Greg Combet AM, who is recognised for both his political contributions, and as a leading advocate for securing just compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases.

“I’m very proud to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University. As a former Member of Parliament for the Hunter Region, it’s a special honour to be recognised in this way,” Mr Combet said.

“At the graduation ceremony, I will highlight to the graduates not only how important their university education will be for their future, but also the choices and opportunities it can provide. My own education has been the foundation for everything I have done and achieved.”

Renowned journalist and author, Ross Gittins AM, one of Australia’s most-read economic writers, is also acknowledged. Mr Gittins recalled his time at the University of Newcastle.

“I’m hugely gratified to be honoured in my home town by my own university and the faculty from which I started my career in commerce,” Mr Gittins said.

“The most memorable moment in my time at university was spending so much time on an accounting honours stream project that I failed macroeconomics and had to ‘show cause’ why I should be allowed to have another go at it. I had to have three goes at a subject called Commerce Stats, but a conceded pass on my last subject allowed me to scrape through to a pass degree.

“After such a chequered career as an undergraduate, the highlight of my career must surely be being invited back 50 years later to be given an Honorary Doctorate. I must have learnt some economics in between.”

Also receiving an Honorary Doctorate is Dr Frances Gentle AO, a conjoint lecturer with the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children Renwick Centre, Australia’s leading provider of professional development and research in the education of children with vision and hearing loss.

Over the course of her esteemed career, Dr Gentle counts her time as a postgraduate lecturer among the most memorable and rewarding.

“I am proud of my former students who become leaders and respected practitioners in the field of education for children with vision impairment,” Dr Gentle said.

“Another highlight was being awarded my Doctorate. My parents were Irish farmers who came to Australia seeking a better life for their children. I am their only child who completed university studies, let alone doctoral studies.”

Dr Gentle, who holds a PhD in Education, Master of Special Education (Honours), and Master of Special Education (Sensory Disability) from the University of Newcastle, is known and respected for her 30-year commitment to the field of education. She is recognised for making a significant difference to the lives of people with vision impairment through her teaching, research, professional training and policy development.

Doctorates will also be presented to former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle’s Faculty of Education and Arts, and current Charles Sturt University Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor John Germov, and Blue Bird Group President-Director, philanthropist and entrepreneur, Noni Purnomo.

Professor Germov holds a PhD from the University of Newcastle, and has earned a significant international profile through his terms as President of the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, President of The Australian Sociological Association, as well as his service on the Executive of the International Sociological Association.

Ms Purnomo holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Industrial) from the University of Newcastle and established Blue Bird Peduli (Blue Bird Care), the philanthropic division of Blue Bird Group, Indonesia’s largest taxi service, which was founded by her grandmother in 1972.

Through various initiatives, Ms Purnomo has supported more than 40,000 wives of Blue Bird Group drivers and employees with small loans and training to start their own businesses, and awarded more than 20,000 scholarships to the children of Blue Bird drivers and employees, supporting their education through school and university.

She was named 2019 Australian Alumni of the Year and was awarded a National Leader Award at the University’s Alumni Awards in September this year.

In addition to receiving an Honorary Doctorate, each recipient will address graduating classes by acting as an Occasional Speaker at the ceremonies.

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