Citation delivered by Mr Harold Hanson AM, Chair of the Honorary Alumni Chapter, University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Jack Baker as Fellows of the University on 5 December 2013.
Chancellor, I present Jack Baker.
It is not often we celebrate such a unique relationship with the University as that of Jack Baker’s. Jack’s first encounter with this institution was when, as a boy, he attended a play at the Wollongong Teachers College. It is a relationship that has continued to this very evening through a variety of roles, including: UOW undergraduate student; high school teacher; TAFE lecturer; UOW PhD student; senior government official; community organisation leader; and UOW Visiting and Honorary Fellow within the discipline of Biological Sciences. Jack met his wife at the UniBar and both she and his daughter are UOW graduates, so his journey and the changing nature of his relationship with the University is quite a story!
Jack was just seventeen when he enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the Wollongong University College, which was then part of the University of New South Wales. Graduating in 1973 in an outdoor ceremony, Jack went on to pursue a distinguished career in teaching: at the Illawarra Grammar School; at Wollongong TAFE; and at the Barren Grounds Bird Observatory and Field Study Centre. Wherever he was, Jack inspired and encouraged his students to pursue further education, particularly at his home institution, the University of Wollongong.
After completing a Bachelor of Applied Science at Charles Sturt University in 1992, Jack’s enthusiasm for the natural environment and passion for its conservation led him to enrol in a PhD at UOW. Inspired by the enthusiasm and scholarship of his supervisors, Professor Rob Whelan and Professor Kris French, Jack completed his thesis on the role of ecotones and fire on the conservation of the endangered Eastern Bristlebird, and received his Doctorate in 1998. He was then appointed a Visiting Fellow at UOW and commenced a new appointment with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. In this role, Jack collaborated with UOW on many projects, contributed publications and secured a number of grants including a PhD scholarship which involved sensitive consultation with community groups, indigenous communities and government organisations.
In 2005, in collaboration with the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage and the Rural Fire Service, Jack played a key role in establishing and securing ongoing funding for the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at UOW. Under the leadership of Professor Ross Bradstock, the Centre continues to be a thriving research unit at UOW with a leading national and international reputation. Jack also worked with UOW’s Woolyungah Indigenous Centre to provide funding, support and supervision for honours students working on projects in land and heritage management.
Jack has a great gift for combining passion, dedication and scholarship to achieve real results, including leading the recovery of the Eastern Bristlebird back from the brink of extinction. Indeed, Jack has been involved in a variety of conservation activities, particularly regarding birds. As a Councillor and Vice-President of BirdLife Australia, one of Australia’s oldest conservation organisations, Jack made an outstanding contribution as an active leader in governance, conservation and research.
On his retirement in 2008, Jack was appointed an Honorary Principal Fellow within the Institute for Conservation Biology and Environmental Management at UOW. He continues to make himself available to staff and students and to provide guidance, research support, community engagement and experimental design. Jack has supervised a wide range of PhD, Masters and Honours students and has collaborated with many researchers at UOW and other Australian universities, resulting in a significant number of published journal articles. His standing as a scientist and academic is demonstrated by his many invitations to peer-review journal articles and examine PhD theses.
Throughout his varied career, Jack has demonstrated his passion for life-long learning; sharing his knowledge and experience; participating in and contributing to environmental conservation; and improving the environment in which we live. Through his achievements, Jack’s strong attachment to UOW has grown and flourished.
Chancellor, in recognition and appreciation of his significant and sustained contribution to the University and the community, it is my pleasure and to present Jack Baker for admission as a Fellow of the University of Wollongong.