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John Patterson

Honorary Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) and Emeritus Professorship

Citation delivered by Professor Paul Wellings CBE, Vice-Chencellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of admission of John William Patterson as a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) and Emeritus Professor on 14 December 2016.

Chancellor, on behalf of Council, I present to you John William Patterson.

As an educator, strategist and leader, Professor John Patterson has always made his presence felt. He is a colourful character, a great story-teller and an exceptional mentor.

On any given day, you could walk into the office that John occupied over the last 14 years of his career at UOW and find him in front of his wall-to-wall whiteboard working with a group of staff on how to make the University even better tomorrow than it was today. In the top corner of that whiteboard was a well-worn Venn diagram with three circles labelled “Think Big”, “Get Stuff Done”, “Have Fun” and the words “People I like to work with” in the centre. John has always believed in and supported his teams. He has done so through initiative, analysis and an eye for the best talent.

John’s own educational path took him from Australia to the United States, from a Graduate Diploma in Physical Education, a Bachelor and two Master degrees, to a Doctor of Education. His career had a similar momentum: from his appointment as a Physical and Health Education Lecturer at the Wollongong Institute of Education in 1974 he rose to become Dean of UOW’s then Faculty of Education in 1993.

Those two decades with the Faculty of Education became the stuff of legend. John was a memorable teacher, motivating students with what he described as a blend of ‘personalised stories, mixed metaphors and bad jokes’ but he always emphasised fairness and excellence. A number of his former students now hold senior positions in policy and curriculum development. As a colleague and leader, John helped to bring out the best in an exceptional group of staff, many of whom went on to occupy pivotal roles within the University and across Australian and international education sectors. He was also an architect of the UOW teacher education programs that are still recognised as some of the best and most innovative in the country.

In 2001, John Patterson was appointed as UOW’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and from 2010 to 2014 he held the position of Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor. He brought his signature energy to these roles, driving initiatives with robust, hands-on commitment. Always supporting his Vice-Chancellor, John oversaw the planning behind international and domestic student growth and was a valuable conduit between executive management and the faculties. He was called on to manage major academic transitions, acting as Dean of both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Commerce at crucial junctures. He also served as Vice-President of the University of Wollongong in Dubai in 2008 and 2012. 

John oversaw critical portfolios, including employment and equity and diversity, strategic planning and marketing, and he led negotiations in the challenging area of academic industrial relations. Through it all, he applied his flair for developing winning teams.

A widely recognised expert in education, John has published books, journals and conference papers and presented at state, national and international conferences. For his contribution to his major discipline area, particularly in curriculum change, he was admitted as a Fellow of the Australian Council for Health and Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER) in 2007. John has also served on the Australian Council of Deans of Education, the NSW Advisory Council on the Quality of Teaching, and the NSW Teacher Education Council. He has been a consultant to universities, government agencies and private companies in Australia and held visiting academic positions in the USA and Canada. His involvement in business and education development projects has taken him from China and the Middle East to Thailand, Singapore and North America.

Despite this demanding agenda, John was a fervent supporter and advocate for many campus communities and causes. His deep involvement with the University Recreation and Aquatic Centre (URAC) saw him remain as its Chair after retirement in order to help its transition to UOW Pulse. He has also given us an unmatchable benchmark in his promotion and performance for the University’s Pink Breakfast fundraiser to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation. In the wider community, John has been a head coach of football teams and served on the Board of Governors of high schools. He is a frequent speaker at community clubs and organisations and an active member of the surf lifesaving association.

Chancellor, in recognition of his many achievements over four decades, it is a pleasure and privilege to present John Patterson for the highest awards of the University of Wollongong.

For his contribution to education and education policy in this University, nationally and internationally, I present him for the award of Doctor of Letters honoris causa. For his leadership, his contribution to his discipline and his role in developing staff and students, I present him for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.

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