Professor Brian Wilson AO



Never before, in its entire history, has the University of Queensland had so much cause to thank one person for what he has achieved. No individual has done more for this University than Brian Graham Wilson who now retires after 17 years as its Vice-Chancellor. Brian Wilson, born in Belfast, took a First in Physics at the Queen's University in 1952 and was awarded a PhD at the National University oflreland in 1956. Postdoctoral work took him to Canada and in 1960 he was appointed Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Calgary, where he become Professor in 1965 and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1970. As a research scientist in the field of astrophysics, specialising in cosmic radiation, solar physics and x-ray astronomy, he published extensively in leading scientific journals, acquired a significant international reputation, and acted as project officer for rocket firings in different parts of the world, including Woomera, Australia. The seductive call of senior academic administration was, however, proving increasingly irresistible and in 1970 Professor Wilson moved to Simon Fraser University in British Columbia as Vice-President (Academic) and Professor of As­tronomy. Resisting invitations to comparable appointments in Canada, he came to Australia in 1979 as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, a position from which he transformed his own University and gave outstanding leadership to the whole university sector throughout Australia. 

During the years of his Vice-Chancellorship the University has become one of the leading universities in Australia and an institution of international repute. Brian Wilson's role in accomplishing this change has been crucial. He it was who established the devolved governmental structure of resource groups and Pro-Vice-Chancellors; encouraged a new emphasis on research and postgraduate studies to replace the previous concentration on undergraduate teaching; attracted research students through Tutorial Assistantships and Fellowships; built up major research centres that diversified the traditional departmental structure and brought outstanding scholars and researchers to Queensland to enhance its growing reputation; attracted massive financial support from non-government sources to broaden its research base and increase the University's autonomy; established UniQuest Ltd in 1984 as the University's commercial arm; presided over the establishment of The University of Queensland Foundation to permit additional innovative research; created the University's Development Office in 1988 to educate us all in the need to raise funds to strengthen our financial independence and consolidate our community support; and showed us what was possible through the Customs House Restoration Campaign. It would be impossible to list comprehensively his many contributions and achievements and only time will tell how his vision of satellite campuses extended further the power and influence of this great institution. 

Among Australia's Vice-Chancellors he has no peer, for the strength and wisdom of his leadership, the vast experience of his years of office, and the integrity that has underpinned his every public action. He was Deputy Chairman, then Chairman, of the Australian Vice-Chancel­lors' Committee during the controversial changes of the Dawkins era, and it is a mark of the man that he has recognised and praised the achievements of a Minister who in his day had more foes than friends. By common consent among Vice-Chancellors, Brian Wilson was the only person the rest could trust to Chair the Australian Government Committee for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Australian universities will never be the same again as a consequence of his visits and enquiries. 

He has already been honoured by universities and governments, in Australia and Canada, through a variety of degrees and other awards, but no institution owes him a greater debt than the University of Queensland, to which he devoted the largest segment of his working life. 
Mr Chancellor, in recognition of his outstanding service to the University of Queensland and to higher education in Australia, and as a token of the respect and affection in which he is held, I present to you Brian Graham Wilson, AO, BSc Belfast, PhD National University of Ireland, HonLLD Calgary, FfS, for the conferral of the award of Doctor of Science honoris causa to which he has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 


Doctor of Science honoris causa