Brian Finn

Honorary Doctor of Education

Citation delivered by Professor Gerard Sutton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Brian Finn to the degree of Doctor of Education (honoris causa) on 14 July 2004.

Chancellor, I present Brian Finn.

Brian Finn has witnessed the changes that transformed society in the last half of the 20th century. He himself took an active role in one of the most conspicuous and rapid areas of change – the development of computing and information technology. His career shows that he recognised the need for understanding and direction in unsettling times. For that reason, Brian Finn has always championed the positive forces of education, communication and good management.

Brian Finn worked with IBM for 35 years in an international career that spanned marketing, software development and, ultimately, senior management. It was an extraordinary period which began when the golf-ball typewriter was leading edgehardware and saw the development of the PC laptop and the handheld computer. Communications technology and society itself were revolutionised by the launch of the internet. Brian Finn oversaw many of these changes as the Chief Executive of IBM Australia from 1980 to 1993 and Chairman from 1991 to 1998. He was also a director of Telstra and chaired the Council of the National Science and Technology Centre.

Brian’s exceptional management skills took him beyond the IT and computing sector to directorships of other Australian companies and to adjunct Professorships at two universities. He still holds a range of senior company positions, notably, for some of us, his chairmanship of Southcorp Limited. (A man who appreciates quality and lasting value is well-suited to a company that produces Grange Hermitage).

An investment in people and their capacity to develop and achieve is central to good management and it is not surprising that Brian Finn has had a long-term interest in education. As Chair of the Australian Education Council Review Committee in 1992, he produced a report (commonly referred to as the Finn review) on Young People’s Participation in Post-compulsory Education and Training, which had a significant impact on the development of education in Australia. He was also Chair of the Australian National Training Authority from 1992 to 1995.

This University plays a principal role in two activities which have benefited directly from Brian Finn’s insights into education, the international scene and change management. For over five years, Brian has chaired the Advisory Board for the ARC Key Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS), a pioneering centre that adopts a multidisciplinary approach to understanding social transformation in the Asia Pacific region. In 1996, he was invited to become the independent Chair of the Board of Impart, one of Australia’s largest e-learning companies, which, with this University, won the Australian Interactive Media Association Industry award for excellence in 2001. In such innovative areas, many ideas can thrive but also contend. Brian Finn has demonstrated all the best characteristics of an effective chairman, providing advice and encouragement where necessary whilst simultaneously driving the projects forward to heightened success and productivity. He has achieved these challenging tasks with patience and tremendous ability.

Brian Finn’s many achievements have been recognised in a number of honours and awards. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1990 for services to Business, Industry and Education. We have chosen, as a University, to give honour to the third area of achievement - education. If education is about developing minds and skills and creating a better way forward, Brian Finn has been an outstanding educator throughout his career.

Chancellor, it is my pleasure and great privilege to present Brian Finn for the award of Doctor of Education, honoris causa.