I am retiring after 45 years at ACU. While it certainly sounds a long time, I remember vividly my first days on Castle Hill Campus in 1977 and then the flow of new literature students, through Castle Hill, then Mount Saint Mary and occasionally MacKillop. Every year a wonderful crop of new faces, new enthusiasms! This has kept me buoyed over all those years. It has been a real joy to be in touch with generations of students who have loved studying literature and who have challenged me to keep my teaching strategies alive and in tune with their interests and needs. I recall last year one student telling me “you taught both my parents at Castle Hill”; more recently I was handing out tickets at the Paramatta Riverside Theatre to a crowd of our students coming to watch Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Most students had gone into the auditorium and I was still waiting for a few to pick up their tickets. One last student arrived: “Here is your ticket. “Michael!!!” she exclaimed. “I was your student 10 years ago!” This floored me, brought me to tears! I must confess that everytime I meet students from decades past I am suddenly plunged back to the time when they were in class, with all their beautiful young talents and idiosyncracies. “Time”, in this context, does become amazingly concertinaed! We are kept young!
So a huge thank you to all those students (some from decades ago) who made contact, and those many staff who made my farewell at Strathfield such a memorable event. It is especially heartening to have confirmed by one’s own colleagues that, despite the demanding, often competitive environment which we all have to deal with, there is a strong underlying sense of companionship- often buried under a multitude of agendas and deadlines.
The farewell was a joy for me and my wife Rose and family- all present (except my youngest daughter who was preparing to give birth to our youngest granddaughter Elkie Rose- now arrived!). Our eldest granddaughter Leeara, who has just graduated from ACU in Psychology WAS there. And a special thank you to eldest daughter Hannah for her wonderful heart-felt summary of her experience of being the child of a somewhat driven teacher!
So farewell to everyone at ACU! This includes many many administrative, support and security staff (Tan, Goran, Michael, Chess, Hector, Chris, Dianne, Melanie, Saroj and many more…) as well as many academic colleagues across a range of disciplines and creative friends from outside ACU: Rachael Kohn, Judith Beveridge, David Malouf, Juno Gemes, Robert Adamson, Toby Davidson, and especially my mentor during all those years, Jim, Professor Jim Tulip of Sydney University (RIP). Thank you all for being part of my life, some of you over very many years. For all my friends at University, I wish you the strength and satisfaction of keeping the campus running smoothly and the Arts prospering at ACU.
PS I will be continuing this blog on all aspects of Literature and its impact on life…. more to come !!!