Emeritus Professor Malcolm Gillies AM

BA (Hons) '78

I'm here and I'm going to make this work

Entering his room in Bruce Hall was a life-changing moment for young Malcolm Gillies. As a proud Canberran, he had achieved a vital dream.

"I have a very happy memory of walking into W23 in Bruce Hall, finally getting there, getting my stuff in the room, closing the door and thinking: I'm here and I'm going to make this work," he says.

"I knew of the expertise at ANU, especially the evening maths classes that Hanna and Bernard Neumann took. I wanted an undergraduate education that would make me think hard."

Gillies' studies for a degree in classics at ANU were challenging but the atmosphere of the University and its campus life started a life-long relationship with his alma mater.

"I have had several periods of my life at ANU. I spent four years as an undergraduate scholar, six years as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), then a couple of years as Vice-President (Development) and I'm now into being an Emeritus Professor," he says.

In between all these stints, Gillies - a musicologist and linguist - studied at four other universities, including the University of Cambridge and King's College London.

He is an internationally recognised authority on the composers Percy Grainger and Bela Bartok and has written or edited more than a dozen books and 100 articles.

After his ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellorship, Gillies worked for ANU overseas.

"ANU is a leading university that takes both research and education seriously, for their own sake," he says.

"One of my happiest memories is working for ANU in the US.I was posted to Yale University as part of its international university precinct. I built education and research relationships and it was especially pleasing."

In 2007, Gillies moved back to the UK to become Vice-Chancellor of City University, London. He was then appointed Vice-Chancellor of London Metropolitan University in November 2009.

"There have been turbulent, and often painful, times with the ever-present financial crisis but it has been wonderful to have the chance to make your mark," he says.

"I've had the chance to improve educational opportunity, to connect new knowledge with already sanctioned knowledge and so to change students' lives and vistas upon life."

Gillies was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2013 and says ANU has taught him many life lessons.

"ANU influenced my career choices in seeing a track forward and I pursued that track," he says.

"Specialise, get on, diversify, get out. Retiring at the age of 60 gives plenty of time to pursue the things you've loved doing and forge some new paths."

These new paths include writing, Eastern Europe, playing and investigation in music and working in international education.

Earlier this year, Gillies returned to Canberra to become the new head of the ANU School of Music.

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