Gerard Sutton AO

Honorary Doctor of Science

Gerard Sutton has made an indelible contribution to this University, to the Australian Higher Education sector and to the people and communities whose futures he has brightened through his dedication and enthusiasm.

Gerard would say he is just an engineer but, like the very best of them, he takes ideas, makes connections and creates lasting structures. He came to Wollongong as Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1990 after senior positions at the University of Technology Sydney and an early career in the navy. When he became Vice-Chancellor in 1995, he followed a very successful predecessor in Ken McKinnon. Over the next 17 years, he has demonstrated a rare talent for taking something strong and making it exceptional.

The University of Wollongong is known for its boldness in taking on challenges and its capacity to meet them. Gerard has often taken pride in UOW’s ability “to punch above its weight”. Although he always gives the credit to his staff and students, it is the Vice-Chancellor who has often seen the opportunity and known when to have faith in people and their ideas. He has been pivotal in giving UOW and the region the landmark developments of: the Innovation Campus, the Graduate School of Medicine, the Illawarra Health & Medical Research Institute and the SMART Infrastructure Facility. In the centres of influence and power, he has managed to win not only backing and resources but also personal respect and allies on all sides of politics. That is a distinctive achievement.

Under Gerard Sutton’s leadership, UOW has been placed in the top 2% of research universities internationally. In singular feats, it has won two successive Australian University of the Year awards and the highest ratings for graduate outcomes for over a decade. Four on-shore sites have been added to the UOW network, including the campus at Southern Sydney. They are complemented by a strong off-shore presence, including a major campus in Dubai. Under Gerard’s careful watch, UOWD has grown in size from 100 to 3330 students and is recognised as one of the leading western universities in the Middle East. Gerard has championed growth in our international student intake, helping to ensure not only a strong base for development but an international alumni family of successful graduates and ambassadors.

On a wider stage, Gerard Sutton has been an outstanding spokesman and advocate for Australia’s Higher Education sector. He has been the convenor of the New South Wales Vice-Chancellors’ Conference and chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, steering it through its transition into the sector’s peak body - Universities Australia. His peers value his experience, his insight and his convivial spirit.

Gerard has been chosen for roles of significance to the nation as a whole; they often call for his special ability to understand both the technical and human sides of an issue. He was a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering & Innovation Council and the Trade Policy Advisory Council. He remains on the Steel Industry Innovation Council and is the incoming Chair of the Board overseeing the operation of Australia's Academic and Research Network (AARNet), the genesis of the internet in Australia.

Gerard’s contribution closer to home in the Illawarra and surrounding regions is spurred by a genuine interest in and loyalty to place, people and relationships. Community leaders and members have warmed to his enthusiasm and appreciated his leadership and advice. In 2010, he was named The Illawarra Mercury’s Citizen of the Year. Gerard is a member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Board and the Prime Minister recently appointed him as a key member of the Illawarra Stakeholders Taskforce to steer Wollongong through these challenging times - it was both a wise and a popular choice.

Gerard appreciates the need to belong. This can be traced back to his childhood in Sydney’s west and to the camaraderie of his navy days. It is beautifully reflected in his love of his family and his faith, in his enjoyment of friends and, even, in his whole-hearted support for his favourite team. It is why he has staunchly defended the right of students from all backgrounds to be included in tertiary education. Enterprise and achievement distinguish his time as Vice-Chancellor but it is Gerard’s marvellous gift for fellowship and celebration that have made this University a special place known for its collegial spirit. At Graduation ceremonies and staff awards functions, Gerard’s smile is broader than any other in the room.

Chancellor, Gerard Sutton has been recognised by his country in the awards of Officer of the Order of Australia and the Australian Centenary Medal. Today, on behalf of his colleagues, the students he takes such pride in, and his fellow citizens, I have the great privilege and personal pleasure of presenting him for the highest honours of his University.

For his singular contribution to the advance of knowledge through collaboration and innovation, I present Gerard Roger Sutton for the award of Doctor of Science honoris causa. For his leadership and his enduring part in our history, I present him for admission as an Emeritus Professor of the University of Wollongong.