On the new Eleanor Schonell Bridge with wife Barbara and UQ Secretary and Registrar Douglas Porter and wife Janet
2006: On the new Eleanor Schonell Bridge with wife Barbara and UQ Secretary and Registrar Douglas Porter and wife Janet

When the Senate Selection Committee convened in mid-1994 to consider the appointment of the University’s fifth full-time Vice-Chancellor, the members had a very clear idea of the type of person they were seeking.

The person appointed needed to be of high academic standing and capable of adding new impetus to the University’s evolution from a reputable largely regional institution of the late 1970s to one with an emerging research reputation and performance.

Equally vital was appointing a person capable of changing the perception of the University as somewhat of a remote ivory tower disengaged from Brisbane’s commercial and industrial community and aloof from the Queensland Government.

The Selection Committee later that year was unanimous that John Hay, then Vice- Chancellor of Deakin University, could achieve those tasks and he took up the appointment on January 1, 1996.

Twelve years on, to say that Senate’s faith in the appointment has been repaid in spades would be an underestimation.

Others will no doubt catalogue John’s achievements in detail. Suffice it to say that he has achieved everything he was asked to do – and more.

John’s reputation, and gift, as an eloquent speaker soon created many invitations as a breakfast, lunch, conference and dinner speaker and he used these engagements tirelessly to raise the profile of the University.

Under his leadership, the University has consolidated its position as the strongest and best performing university in Queensland, and is now firmly established as one of Australia’s best universities with a growing international standing and reputation.

No longer aloof from government, it can claim to be one of the architects of Queensland’s Smart State policy and to have contributed significantly to its success.

One thing which the Senate did not realise or anticipate when appointing John was that he came with another valuable asset from which the University has also benefited enormously – his wife Barbara.

I often comment that when John was appointed, the University received “two for the price of one” because of Barbara’s close involvement in John’s life and in that of the University in general.

Barbara has supported John as a vital member of “Team Hay” in his role as Vice- Chancellor, acting as a calming influence during periods of stress, often at his side at functions in Australia and overseas, and also making sure that his presence was felt at functions he was not able to attend personally.

She has also contributed in her own right, often hosting the partners of visiting dignitaries, promoting events and exhibitions and through serving on the St Leo’s College Council.

Barbara has been a kind, gracious and hardworking member of our community and in paying this tribute to Team Hay I would like, in particular to thank her on behalf of the whole University.