About Senate

Secretaries to Senate

Jean Duncan Foley

Jean Duncan Foley (nee Laing) was Registrar of the University of Sydney in 1975. The position of Registrar included the role of Secretary to Senate.


BA DipSocStud HonDLitt Sydney
Registrar: 1975


Jean Duncan Foley (nee Laing) had graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1946 and Diploma in Social Studies in 1947 from the University of Sydney.

In 1950 she joined the staff of the University of Sydney as a temporary Graduate Assistant to the Appointments Board and later its Assistant Secretary.

In 1953 she resigned to take up the position of Supervisor of Training and Systems Officer at International Business Machines.

In 1958 she was appointed Mechanisation Officer of the Hospitals Contribution Fund.

Her career at the University of Sydney

She returned to the University in 1960 as an Assistant Registrar.

Her duties in this position included responsibility for the installation of a new computer for Data Processing. In addition, as Assistant Registrar, she was over a period to hold the following positions: Secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Dentistry, and Secretary to the Boards of Studies in Divinity and Social Work. She was also involved as part of her work in Data Processing with organisation and methods.

Jean Foley also played an important part in the establishment of the Metropolitan Universities Admission Centre and the success of this Centre was said to be due in large part to her continuing interest and expert guidance.

In 1970 she was appointed Deputy Registrar; Associate Registrar in 1972 and, on Ralph Fisher's resignation in 1974, Acting Registrar.

In 1975 she was appointed Registrar, the University's eleventh Registrar and the second woman appointed to the position. Her period as Registrar was to be all too short for she resigned because of family commitments in mid-1975.

Her years at the University were very difficult and, at times, turbulent ones. It was a period of great change in the University's administration to which she made a lasting and wide-ranging contribution.

Her qualities as an administrator were well summed up by Professor Rogers, a former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, when he wrote that she would long be remembered "for her unobtrusive efficiency, her charm and her unfailing good humour." He noted that she was a constructive administrator, "always looking for better ways of doing things, putting into practice the injunction of Geoffrey Chaucer (a poet who was also an administrator) to take the fruit and let the chaff be still.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor (later Sir) Bruce Williams, wrote in July 1975: " Mrs Foley's term as Registrar was regrettably short. Her great integrity judgment, foresight and charm helped to make her an ideal Registrar. We shall miss her. It is small consolation that she has agreed to remain with us in a consultative capacity, to complete some important work she had started and to give us the benefit of her advice. "


Registrar Jean Foley in 1975, photo G3_224_1371, University Archives.


Lady Foley went on to study early Australian history and was awarded the degree of Master of Arts in 1985.

She also completed a book entitled 'In Quarantine: A History of Sydney's Quarantine Station 1828-1984' which was published in 1995.

Doctor of Letters (honoris causa)

The degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) was conferred upon Lady Foley at the Arts ceremony held at 6.00pm on 2 March 1995.

From an article by Ursula Bygott, 1992 University of Sydney Archives 'Record', and Lady Foley's honorary award citation