Michael Henry Codd AC

Honorary Doctor of Letters

Citation delivered by Professor Gerard Sutton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong On the occasion of the admission of Michael Henry Codd AC to the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) on 18 December 2009.


Chancellor, I present Michael Codd.

The word “Chancellor” has its origins in Roman times. Introduced into England and the English language by King Edward the Confessor, it became the title of an important office under the Norman Kings. The Chancellor was a custodian who bore a heavy responsibility for watching over and keeping safe the governance and good order of the land.

Michael Codd’s distinguished career of service to his country and to this University has many echoes of the historical Chancellor’s role. He assumed the title officially when he became our Chancellor in 1997. He went on to fulfil the letter and the spirit of the role as presiding officer of the governing Council and a custodian of the conventions and ceremonies that define a University and give protection, guidance and due tribute to its staff and students.

Mike Codd was born in Harvey, Western Australia, and attended the University of Adelaide where he completed an honours degree in economics. His exceptional aptitude as an advisor and administrator was to take him from the west to Canberra and to the highest office in the nation’s public service. During the 1970s and 80s, Mike Codd moved expeditiously from the roles as Deputy Secretary and Under Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to Secretary of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. He chaired the then Industries Assistance Commission from 1983 to 1985 when he was appointed as Secretary of the newly created Department of Community Services.

In 1986, Mike Codd became Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He held that prestigious and influential office until his retirement in 1992 and served under three Prime Ministers – including Australia’s longest-serving Labor Prime Minister, the Honourable Bob Hawke.

Mike Codd met the challenges of an extraordinary period when Australia shed its insular skin to open up, politically, socially and economically, to the wider world. His outstanding contribution to the nation and its government was recognised in 1991 when he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia, the highest of the nation’s honours. He has taken on many reviews and projects at the request of the nation, and has served on the boards of leading companies including Telstra, IBM Australia, ANSTO and QANTAS.

When he accepted the role of Chancellor of this University, therefore, Mike Codd found some familiar structures and processes but also the traditions and behaviours peculiar to a university world. Over the next twelve years, he welcomed those new challenges and guided this University as it advanced in size and prestige to take its place amongst the top 2% of the world’s universities.

When Mike arrived in 1997, the University had 13,000 students at its on-shore campuses and sites; today that has doubled to 26,000. Our 300 students off-shore have grown to 3,000, largely at the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD). Mike has taken an active interest in UOWD, attending many graduation ceremonies and advising on its development as Australia’s pre-eminent off-shore university. His astute judgement and knowledge of the worlds of government and business helped to bring to reality the major projects of the last decade – the Innovation Campus, the Graduate Medical School, the Health & Medical Research Institute and the SMART Infrastructure Facility. He was, and continues to be, a tireless and respected advocate for this University.

Mike Codd presided over the University Council and advised the Vice-Chancellor in times of great change and when issues of some contention threatened good order. The observations of another Secretary to Cabinet, in quite another place, ring true of that period. Sir Humphrey Appleby once observed: “Diplomacy is about surviving to the next century. Politics is about surviving until Friday afternoon”. Mike Codd understood the importance of consensus and the endurance of wise decisions but he also appreciated the good politics of a smooth Friday afternoon Council meeting.

It is fitting that we celebrate, in this place, a very special aspect of Mike Codd’s time as Chancellor. It is here, at Graduation ceremonies, that the University community has witnessed, most clearly, his care, his profound respect for academic achievement and his good humour. Mike Codd has shaken the hands of fifty thousand graduating students. In a style that he has made his own and is envied by his peers, he has enquired genuinely about their future and stood patiently and happily for photographs with families. He has always taken great joy in being part of these ceremonies.

Mike Codd retired this year as the most senior Chancellor in the Australian university sector. He brought very special qualities to the high offices he has held in the service of the sector, the University of Wollongong and his country. They are strength, keen intelligence, great dedication to duty and a rare sense of grace and ceremony.

Chancellor it is my great honour and personal privilege to present Michael Codd AC for the award of Doctor of Letters honoris causa.