Thursday, January 09, 2014

New England passings - death of Emeritus Professor Donald George

Emeritus Professor Donald George, the University of Newcastle's second Vice-Chancellor from 1975 until 1986, has died. Vale-Emeritus-Professor-Donald-George-AO-large

Professor George was a graduate in Science and Engineering at the University of Sydney, where he was also awarded his doctoral degree for research in the field of plasma physics.

Starting his academic career in 1949 as a lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the Newcastle Technical College, Professor George transferred to the NSW University of Technology in Broken Hill. Moving overseas, he joined the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Commission as a Research Officer working first at Harwell, before returning to Australia to work at Lucas Heights in NSW.

In 1959, academia called again and he took up the position of senior lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the University of Sydney. Still at Sydney, he was made Associate Professor in 1966 and appointed to the PN Russell Chair of Mechanical Engineering in 1968.

Professor George held strong national and international roles in the management and development of nuclear energy, and his research expertise also extended to the areas of direct energy conversion and solar energy. He was a member of the Institute of Defence Science and of the Academy of Science Committee on Solar Energy. He was a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, Australia; the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, London; the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London; and he was an Associate of the Australian Institute of Physics.

Recognising his significant contributions to his field, Professor George was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1979 for services to the sciences and engineering, and a Centenary Medal in 2001 for services to Australian society in atomic energy.

As Newcastle's second Vice-Chancellor from 1975 to 1986, Professor George shaped the University during its important formative years. He is remembered for his instrumental role in establishing and supporting the University's flagship medical school, an innovation that was testing conventional boundaries for its time. With Professor David Maddison and others, he worked to set up administrative and academic structures that allowed for new approaches in education and clinical studies, and today Newcastle's program remains among the nation's leaders in health and medical education.

The University's Indigenous student support program - Wollotuka - started under the stewardship of Professor George. In 2013, the Wollotuka Institute celebrated its 30th anniversary. Approximately half of the country's Indigenous medical doctors are graduates of the University and Newcastle's enrolment of Indigenous students, which spans all faculties, is almost double the sector average. The University's enabling programs were also strongly supported by Professor George. Newcastle was among Australia's first universities to introduce enabling programs and from a pilot program in 1974, is now the nation's largest provider.

In remembering Professor George, the University noted that Newcastle's reputation for innovation and excellence in research and education rested in large measure on Professor George's vision and passion to build the fledgling university in its early years. "As Vice-Chancellor, Professor George made a remarkable and lasting contribution to the University and to Newcastle, and he is warmly remembered as a leader with great integrity, energy and commitment."

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