Honorary awards

Emeritus Professor Gavin Brown AO

The honorary degree of Doctor of Science was conferred upon Emeritus Professor Gavin Brown AO by the Chancellor Her Excellency Professor Bashir AC CVO at the Faculty of Science graduation ceremony held at 9.30am on 15 May 2009.

The Chancellor and Emeritus Professor Gavin Brown AO

The Chancellor with Emeritus Professor Brown AO, photo, copyright Memento Photography.

Emeritus Professor Gavin Brown AO

Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence, Emeritus Professor Brown AO and the Chancellor after the ceremony, photo, copyright Andrew Potter.


Presented by the Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence

Chancellor, I have the honour to present Professor Gavin Brown for the conferring of the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa).

Professor Gavin Brown’s academic achievements are well documented and widely known, winning scholarships for both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies and becoming a full Professor at the age of 33 when he accepted the Chair of Pure Mathematics at the University of New South Wales. His mathematical research and, in particular, his work involving Fourier analysis, led to the award of the Sir Edmund Whittaker Memorial Prize and the Australian Mathematical Society Medal.

He was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and later became a member of its Council (1992-1995) and Vice-President (1993-1994). Professor Brown held Visiting Professorships at the University of Paris, the University of Cambridge and the University of Washington. He has also been heavily involved with the most recent progress and achievements of the Australian Research Council.

It is however, Professor Brown’s administrative gifts in the academic world that led to the achievements we wish to recognise today. Having cut his teeth as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and then Vice-Chancellor at the University of Adelaide over a 4 – 5 year period, where he brought about a major restructuring of University management, a strong focus on links with industry and a programmed return of the University's budget to surplus, Professor Brown went on to transform the University of Sydney at a time it was desperately needed.

In the early 1990s Sydney was at a critical crossroads. In 1993 the University failed to be placed in the top band of the national quality audit, an indicator of major concern. It had lost track of enrolment processes and, at the beginning of Professor Brown’s vice-chancellorship, had to pay back millions of dollars to the Federal Government for under-enrolment in previous years. The University was not attracting the best students in the State - in fact in 1995, the University had only 30,000 students, of whom 2,206 were from overseas - and research performance had slipped.

Professor Brown took up his position of Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney on 1 July 1996. Today, 12 years later, the picture is dramatically different.

Under Professor Brown’s leadership, Sydney has regained its natural premier position. Enrolments now average 45,000 students a year, nearly 9,000 of them from overseas. It has the greatest number of first preference applications from school-leavers and has increased its percentage share of these every year.

For the last six years Sydney has led competitive research grants nationwide. In the last round of Australian Research Council grants, for example, the University won 66 per cent more than the University of Melbourne, while in the Discovery scheme we gained more than all other four Sydney universities combined.

On the financial front, Sydney has consistently returned the largest operating surplus of any university in the nation and much of this surplus has been and is being re-invested in campus developments, most notably the just completed Campus 2010 development, which at an investment of $250 million is the largest single capital development program ever undertaken at the University.

Professor Brown has been active in supporting the overall student experience and encouraging extra-curricular activity such as sport and debating, exemplified by the championships we have won at the Australasian and the World Student Debating Championships, at the Australian Student Games for the last five years, and our many Olympian and Paralympian athletes.

Integral to Professor Brown’s holistic and comprehensive approach has been the significant growth in outreach to the University’s increasing cohort of alumni, to our neighbouring community, to the worlds of business, industry, the professions, arts and politics. He has also been instrumental in promoting the recognition of our highest achievers and our contributions to society as a whole, and the constant reinforcing of our natural role as Australia’s first University - with all that that signifies.

In parallel with all this, it is humbling to note that Professor Brown continued to carry out research in his own field and to supervise PhD students while Vice-Chancellor. I believe he was probably the only Australian Vice-Chancellor who was simultaneously a principal researcher on an ARC research grant!

It is my privilege and joy to follow Professor Brown as Vice-Chancellor of this great university. In isolation, each of his achievements are considerable. In combination, they are, for me, an inspiration.

Chancellor, I have the greatest pleasure in presenting to you, for admission to the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa), the mathematician and our former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown.