Citation delivered by Mr Harold Hanson AM, Chair of the Honorary Alumni Chapter, University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of David Rome and Dara Rome as Fellows of the University on 5 December 2013.
Chancellor, I present Dara and David Rome.
Tonight, we are privileged to award a rare, joint fellowship to Dara and David Rome in recognition of the partnerships they have forged between UOW and the Thai higher education sector.
Dara graduated with honours in Architecture and Industrial Design from the prestigious Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and came to Perth in 1969 to study English under a Colombo Plan scholarship. It was in Perth that Dara first met David and, although she had to return to Thailand to work, she soon re-joined David in Australia and they started a family. As a mother of two young children, Dara studied for a Masters of Applied Science in the conservation of cultural materials at Canberra University and went on to establish a successful career as a conservator in the Australian public service.
David, meanwhile, attained a first class honours degree in organic chemistry and a Master of Science from UWA and credits these academic achievements to the belief shown in him by his mother and his second grade teacher in South Bunbury State School. For both he and Dara, education has been a transforming feature in their lives, taking them far from home and opening new opportunities, and they have sought to encourage and facilitate such educational opportunities for others.
After Dara and David moved to Canberra, their careers in the public service flourished. David became a foreign affairs officer taking Dara to Mexico and Venezuela on diplomatic postings. He later worked for the Commonwealth Ombudsman and in various Government departments in senior management positions, while Dara took on challenging conservation roles at the National Archives, National Museum and the War Memorial. David was appointed Vice-Principal (Administration) at the University of Wollongong in 1996 and quickly became an invaluable member of the senior executive team.
Despite their busy schedules, Dara and David recognised an opportunity to develop the University’s relationship with Thailand. With the then Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerard Sutton, Dara and David set up meetings with senior officials in the Thai higher education sector, drawing on Dara’s strong connections as well as her cultural advice and high level interpretation skills. Dara was keen to assist UOW and her adopted country but also to build educational opportunities for Thai students. Together, the Romes helped develop institutional partnerships and student placement arrangements that paved the way for an enduring relationship with Thailand.
Thanks to Dara and David, UOW now has the highest proportion of Thai students of any Australian university and strong strategic links with the most prestigious Thai institutions. With 18 partnerships in place, Dara and David continue to support and mentor Thai students and alumni, regularly attending graduation ceremonies and alumni events. UOW’s Thai Alumni Chapter is one of the University’s most active chapters and UOW is one of only a handful of Australian universities that can host an annual alumni event in Thailand and draw over 200 attendees.
Since David retired from the University in 2005, he and Dara have continued their association with UOW and its Thai partners. As David frequently remarks, the success of the special relationship between UOW and Thailand could not have been achieved without the dedication, strategic connections and cultural expertise of Dara Rome. Her contributions have been invaluable and her service is all the more remarkable as it has been given in her own time and in addition to her work and family commitments.
Dara and David have both provided exceptional service to UOW over the last two decades but are typically modest about their contributions. They share a positive, can-do attitude; a love of ideas and literature; and an emphasis on the people in their lives over and above their own individual achievements. Dara and David are an excellent team who have shared their goodwill and dedication with this University, and it is very fitting that they be given this joint award.
Chancellor, for their instrumental role in the development of the University’s strong and continuing relationship with Thailand, it is my pleasure to present Dara and David Rome for admission as Fellows of the University of Wollongong.