Fellow of the University of Wollongong
Citation orated by Mr Harold Hanson AM
Chancellor, Halina Majer has lent the University of Wollongong a trace of her own class. We owe her a debt for her part in creating UOW’s reputation for effectiveness with style. Halina was a pivot point. She guided the business of leadership and navigated an often complex network of relationships. For over three decades, she managed the office and, indeed, the outside world for four, different Vice-Chancellors. She did this with exceptional grace, loyalty and skill.
Halina’s story is woven into the history of the city of Wollongong. Of Polish and French descent, she was born in the former Czechoslovakia and came here with her beloved mother in the great post-war migration from a desolated Europe. With their fellow migrants, they brought with them the customs, arts and foods that changed the character of this region. They created the rich diversity which distinguishes Wollongong and this University today. In a poignant coincidence, Halina first lived in the Nissan Huts at Fairy Meadow Migrant Hostel, now the site of Campus East and the Innovation Campus.
After completing her schooling, Halina studied at this campus for a year before beginning her career. In the 1970s, she became, in turn, the Departmental Secretary to the Departments of Psychology, Education, Economics and Biology.
These were the foundation years, the years of UOW’s transition from a university college to an independent University. Management structures were being tested and Halina was on the “front line”, helping others to meet the demands of change. During that time, she also met and worked for Alex Clarke, the foundation Professor of Psychology, who became a mentor and lifelong friend. Halina continued to hold him in great affection, showing that great capacity for loyalty that distinguished her life and career.
In 1978, Halina moved to the Administration Building as Assistant to the Academic Registrar. A year later, she took the opportunity to work again with Professor Clarke, becoming his Personal Assistant when he was appointed as UOW’s first Deputy Vice-Chancellor. In 1980, she was asked to take a temporary position as Assistant to the first Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Birt, and the rest is, indeed, history.
As the Executive Assistant, Halina was the face and voice of the Vice-Chancellor’s office for the next 30 years. To borrow from the poet John Donne, she was the “fixed foot” in a twin compass: she allowed the Vice-Chancellors to go out and perform their role knowing that all was in her careful hands back in their office. The two Vice-Chancellors she served longest, Ken McKinnon and Gerard Sutton, applaud her as “an exemplary personal secretary, not just for her secretarial skills but for those rarer, professional characteristics of discretion, judgement, commitment and wise counsel”.
Halina Majer's family accepting her University Fellowship
Chancellor, Halina Majer has made a unique contribution to the University of Wollongong and to her community. She mastered a challenging role and brought to it an unfailing elegance of presence and manner. At the same time, she successfully raised her three children as a single mother and she has always claimed Daniel, Jacqui and Nick as her greatest achievements. Halina has remained a loving mother, a kind and loyal colleague, a steadfast friend and a sincere advocate for the University, the Vice-Chancellor and, always, for what she believed was right.
It is a privilege and great pleasure to commend Halina’s Fellowship to you this evening.