Our 75th Year
As I celebrate my 75th year, so too does the ANU. While the Bill passed in 1946 to establish ANU was pivotal, it was another decision of the Federal Parliament to which I truly owe my ANU education. The late Gough Whitlam's push for free education is what made it possible for me to attend the ANU, or any university, in the first place.
Of the academic staff who were the most prominent during my study, there are many who I remember fondly.
There was Professor David Brown, who you would often see tramping across the paddocks out near Bowning NSW, leading a trail of students in his wake - myself included - as we walked the Devonian geological section.
I remember Dr Tony Eggleston, who I swear lived inside a crystal, asking us students whether we had any questions at the end of a lecture on crystallography and crystal chemistry.
"Um - yes," I had thought. "Can you explain all that again please?"
The content was so rich I had not understood enough to even frame a question, yet what I learned during those crystallography lessons was the very stuff I was to utilise for the next thirty years of my geological career. Particularly working in the diamond exploration industry as a laboratory mineralogist, where I identified minerals in heavy mineral concentrates. I even discovered a new one: Arsenofluorencite-Ce.
I remember Dr Mike Richard. You could always count on finding Dr Richard, bum-up and head-down, examining the tiniest of details in a rock, exploring a creek, or arguing some point with the PhD students.
Then, there was Professor Ken Campbell. I will always remember Professor Campbell discussing the various features of some creature long since extinct, and hypothesising upon what the function of each feature was; leading us students down the garden path until we were totally convinced that he was correct - and then exclaiming 'bullshit'. Having convinced us with his made-up stories, he would then go on to explain their real functions. It was a demonstration of how one can get things totally wrong if one did not examine their findings in great detail. His light-hearted antics indeed groomed us for serious scientific research. On a different note; although not a great cricket player, I managed to bowl Professor Campbell out in our staff v. students cricket match.
Other fond memories reside around the camaraderie felt with one's fellow students; fostered by camps, geological field trips, and the student geological society. I will never forget the annual Bush Week treasure hunt which, one year, included obtaining John Howard's signature. Howard was the Federal Treasurer at the time. My friend, Lucian de Nardi, trawled through the phone book until he found another John Howard who would oblige us. Needless to say, we won the treasure hunt that year.
I never set out to be a career geologist. I started to study at the ANU in the Arts Faculty studying Pre-history, but I quickly learned that it entailed being able to argue the point in written form. I was not so enthusiastic about that, so I switched to the Science Faculty and continued studying Geology. I felt much more at home in the science world, and the skills I learned there sustained me and my family until my retirement in 2016. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ANU, for the connections I made there and its rigorous courses of study, for providing me with a lifelong career.
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