Vale Rob Wheen
30 December 2004
December 31 2004 marks the end of an era in the Department when A/ProfRob Wheen, the current Head of Department, retires after more then 35 years in the Department. A special farewell was given to Rob at the annual Christmas Party.
The following is an edited version of A/Prof Wheen's farewell letter that appeared in the Civil Engineering Foundation Annual Report.
"Dear Friends and Colleagues.
The thought of retiring from this place after 35 years brings many memories, from the day I stepped through the gates of the University as an undergraduate from the bush to the last five years as Head of the Department of Civil Engineering. When I graduated in 1963 I never dreamed that one day I would sit behind Professor Roderick's desk.
I came to the University because I wanted to build bridges and that remains my passion as many graduates would attest; I still find the concepts and applications of prestressed concrete as fascinating as ever. I have gained great pleasure from working with more than 2000 Civil Engineering graduates since 1969, and maintaining contact with many of them in their later careers. Another joy has been the ingenuity I have witnessed over the years as students bent their minds to the challenges that Russell Bridge and I conjured up for the Annual Design Competition.
Throughout my time I have also made many great friends and I cherish this above all else. The Department of Civil Engineering is widely known as one of the most harmonious around the University. It took an outsider to bring that message home to me since I thought this unremarkable. Long may that harmony endure!
I chose an academic career in Civil Engineering at The University of Sydney in 1969, not only because it was my alma mater but because I felt that the fledgling Civil Engineering Graduate Foundation as it was then held great promise for the future well-being of the Department. Events have borne out that feeling. In the early seventies Foundation support allowed Professor Roderick to make some outstanding academic appointments (Abel, Booker and Hancock among them) and we all know how important these have been in the life of the Civil Engineering Department. The Civil Engineering Foundation has been a vital support throughout my academic career.
I believe we are currently witnessing the greatest change that the Department has experienced, certainly within my memory. The "baby boomers" have retired: Andrew Abel, Harry Poulos, Peter Ansourian, Logan Apperley, Noel Ings, Ali Jaafari and now myself. With the added elevation of Greg Hancock to Dean of Engineering and John Carter to Chair of the University's Academic Board, it could be imagined that we would be in a dire position. But the great wheel turns. We welcome Dong Jeng, Abbas ElZein and Gianluca Ranzi as the first of seven or eight new academic appointments to the Department. It is an exciting prospect. Couple this to Kim Rasmussen taking my chair and I leave this place content that it is in good hands.
I thank everyone, students, colleagues and Foundation industry members alike for their support, guidance, understanding and forever, their friendship.