University of Melbourne Magazine

Celebration stirs memories and rekindles old friendships

  • Professor Douglas Williamson RFD QC (LLB(Hons) 1955)

    Dr James Guest AM OBE (BSc 1938, MB BS 1941, Trinity College)

    Tales of women’s liberation, famous classmates, post-war history and mischievous antics filled the air at the biggestever gathering of the University’s ‘golden alumni’ – those who graduated 50 or more years ago.

    The celebration, held at Wilson Hall in October, attracted more than 420 alumni from across 10 faculties and Parkville and Mildura campuses.

    Chancellor Elizabeth Alexander AM (BCom 1964, St Hilda’s College) hosted, with guest speakers including distinguished alumni Dr James Guest AM OBE (BSc 1938, MB BS 1941, Trinity College) (pictured) and Professor Adrienne Clarke AC (BSc(Hons) 1959, PhD 1963, Janet Clarke Hall).

    Professor Clarke’s speech recalled a very different University to that of today, with the 1950s figuring heavily. One recollection though presaged a coming era of rebellion.

    “We were very innocent in those days, but I remember one person stood out, swooping around the campus dressed all in black with black make-up around her eyes – it was Germaine Greer. We were all horrified.”

    For many alumni, it was a rare chance to return to see the many changes to the Parkville campus that have occurred since their time there. Indeed, many remembered the moment when Wilson Hall’s predecessor burnt to the ground in January 1952.

    Deep personal connections to the campus abounded. Many a true love bloomed among the plane-tree-lined paths. “I made lifelong friendships, met my wife and – strange as it might seem – actually enjoyed most of my lectures too,” recalled Professor Douglas Williamson RFD QC (LLB(Hons) 1955).

    Professor Williamson is one of many protégés of the late Sir Zelman Cowen – the Dean of Law who later became Governor-General of Australia. He described Professor Cowen as “simply an inspiring man”.

    As Jennie Vaughan (BAgrSc 1956, GDipEd 1974, Janet Clarke Hall) recalled, it was not unusual to retain a lifelong friendship with one’s academic inspirations.

    “My favourite lecturer by far was Professor Nancy Millis,” Mrs Vaughan says. “We became close friends and kept in touch over the years.”

    The Golden Alumni Celebration was a reminder that a university is not just bricks and mortar – it is a community, drawn together by love, spirit and friendship.

    Want to connect with your old classmates? Visit the InTouch alumni portal to find out about other planned reunions.