October is such a good month. The paddocks are green and look healthy after rain. Thunderstorms at night have not interrupted people’s golf and other pursuits including, for some, their graduations.
UNE’s Booloominbah was in grand repair and the lawn awash with coloured gowns and academic hoods. No storms to interrupt and the only rainbow was in a song performed magnificently. The hill was a little quieter and a whole lot more polite than the one I used to sit on at the Sydney Cricket Ground. There was still much applause and some hooted and hollered to declare how proud they were of graduating friends and family.
The graduates smiled for the camera as they shook the chancellor’s hand and we all applauded.
In a world of chaos and informality, the graduation was orderly, enjoying an appropriate level of formality with everyone understanding that some events are of significant occasion. From doctoral to diploma, across all age groups, in subject categories as broad as the nationalities represented was a celebration of the universal importance of education.
As woman after woman stepped forward to receive their awards, this educational privilege denied to women in some parts of the world was not lost on me.
As woman after woman stepped forward to receive their awards, this educational privilege denied to women in some parts of the world was not lost on me. Man after man stood and I thought one can only hope that they will, with courage, stand in life for more than just awards. As PhD subjects were announced, their value took us beyond our own shores to those so needy of the research. I was reminded that educational awards do not just acknowledge a journey of study, they become an invitation to changing our world for good.
Pauline Allen, UNE Alumnus, former staff member and recipient of HonDLitt, addressed the graduation with the eloquence you would expect from such an accomplished educator. I hope my memory of the event does her no disservice but I was immediately interested as the honour accorded Mrs Allen honoured the important place of history in our thinking, the value of the classics and, of course with them, studies in Biblical literature and early Christendom.
To forget history is to make us vulnerable to the errors of the past. To understand history makes us accountable to God and a future graduation day for which God has done everything necessary to ensure our graduation.
Mrs Allen spoke of collegiality and humility so important to our world and yet so easily lost in the hallowed halls of academia or the hectic contexts of the business world. These two, collegiality and humility, were exemplified in her educators. They filled her mind with greater understanding and her heart with admiration and appreciation.
Personally, this has never been better exemplified for me than in Jesus Christ who, in collaboration with God the Father, did not proudly grasp for equality but humbly emptied Himself to serve and save others.
Like all graduation speeches, I am convinced Mrs Allen’s hope was that graduates would realise the value of a world where people work together for the good of all and that humility is a prerequisite to successfully working together. I am convinced that she was encouraging us to be this kind of person.
As I watched the university staff run the day, gently direct traffic, organise and serve lunches, collegiality and humility would be a good description of their efforts and I would, on behalf of all who attended, say thank you.
Finally, as a bishop who sat with his state member and the mayors of local councils, I thought collegiality and humility were worthy challenges for us all and one we should all hope to graduate in.