Dame Leonie's latest honour
8 April 2009
Dame Leonie Kramer, the first woman to be elected Chancellor of the University of Sydney, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters at a ceremony in the Great Hall today.
After serving as Deputy Chancellor from 1989, Dame Leonie was appointed the Chancellor of the University between 1991 and 2001.
"She devoted herself with supreme dedication to the University and to its place of excellence amongst the universities of the world," the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, said at the graduation ceremony.
"She brought her established reputation as a teacher, thinker and writer about Australian literature, as well as her role as a public intellectual and greatly accomplished woman, to the manifold duties of Chancellor," he added.
She was the first woman in nearly a hundred and fifty years to be elected Chancellor of the University, "one of many glass ceilings that she challenged and overcame during her glittering career," Dr Spence commented.
While acknowledging Dame Leonie's "dedication [in attending] countless graduations, Senate meetings, committees and functions … as the principal public face of the University," the Vice-Chancellor paid special tribute to "her scholarship and leadership in the study of Australian literature".
Dame Leonie, who was also the University's Professor of Australian Literature from 1968 to 1990, has written definitive works on the poetry of James McAuley and is greatly respected by academic experts in her field as a scholar.
"It was she who, in a very real way, helped to establish this subject as a legitimate and important realm for study, separate from, but part of, general English literature, one of the many great gifts of the English-speaking peoples to the world, Dr Spence said.
"She is acknowledged, including by those who sometimes differ from her, for her fierce love of intellectual integrity and individual freedom."
Dame Leonie has been a member of the boards of the St Vincent's Hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II Trust and the International Advisory Committee of Encyclopaedia Britannica, as well as the ANZ bank and Western Mining Corporation.
She has served as Chairwoman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Commissioner of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales and National President of the Australia-Britain Society and in the Council of the Order of Australia Association.
After the ceremony the English Department hosted an afternoon tea in her honour, attended by all four of the University's Professors of Australian Literature: Professor G.A. Wilkes (1963-1967), Professor Kramer, Professor Elizabeth Webby (1990-2006) and Professor Robert Dixon (2007-current).
Contact: Kath Kenny
Phone: 02 9351 2261