In memory of former Vice-Chancellor Professor Gavin Brown

4 January 2011

Professor Gavin Brown, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1996 to 2008.
Professor Gavin Brown, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1996 to 2008.

The University of Sydney community was saddened to hear of the death of former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown, who suffered a heart attack at his Adelaide home after a Christmas Day lunch with his family.

Professor Brown was born in Scotland on February 27, 1942 and attended the University of St Andrews, graduating in 1963 with first class honours in mathematics and Latin. He acquired a PhD from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1966 and became a lecturer in mathematics at Liverpool University.

After migrating to Australia, he accepted the chair of pure mathematics at the University of NSW and was subsequently Head of the School of mathematics and Dean of the Faculty of Science there before moving to South Australia as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and then Vice-Chancellor at the University of Adelaide.

Professor Brown came to the University of Sydney as Vice-Chancellor in 1996 and served in that role for the next 12 years.

He was a remarkably successful Vice-Chancellor who led the University to regain its research pre-eminence, increase student numbers by more than 50 per cent, double our postgraduate numbers, treble our income and multiply fourfold the number of international students.

Professor Brown also initiated the then largest capital program ever undertaken by an Australian university leading to the new Law School, the IT building, and the Jane Foss Russel Building for student services, as well as student accommodation in the 650-bed Sydney University Village and a multimillion-dollar restoration and refurbishment of heritage buildings.

His Vice-Chancellorship also saw the award of the United States Studies Centre, and the establishment of the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Rio Tinto Centre for Mining Automation.

Professor Brown was also a passionate supporter of a wide range of student activities including rugby and debating.

Professor Brown was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006. He was a recipient of the Royal Society NSW Medal and was appointed the inaugural director of the Royal Institution of Australia. He also acted as the first chair of the Group of Eight (Go8).

Professor Brown is survived by wife Diane, his children, Janet and Colin, and stepchildren Benjamin and Oliver.