Warden on exciting time for College, outstanding student achievements, and serving the public interest
Speaking at the College’s annual Fathers and Sons Dinner on Saturday night, the Head of College, Dr Don Markwell, has spoken of an exciting time for the College – just a day after the first 52 students moved into the new world-class Ivan Head Building, and while the College prepares for a further 50 students to go into it in second semester, and for the new Graduate House to be completed later this year.
The “Warden’s Address” followed a brilliant and deeply moving speech by the Senior Student, Barney Archibald, in which he spoke of the importance of fathers to their sons, and of the tragic death of his own father and his gratitude to those who had become father figures to him.
In his address, as well as speaking of fatherhood from the point of view of a parent, Dr Markwell also spoke of outstanding student achievements in the College – such as 37% of last year’s resident students securing High Distinction or Distinction averages in their University marks, winning the Rawson Cup in 2017, and performing strongly in sport and cultural activities this year.
So far this year, “we have come second in the cricket, third in the swimming, second in the rowing, and started our rugby campaign with a resounding win against Wesley earlier this week.” We are performing strongly in the inter-collegiate cultural competitions that go towards the Palladian Cup.
The Warden also referred to the College’s tradition of service to the community, exemplified in College members’ contribution to the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, and with the Outreach Syndicate working now to broaden opportunities for our students to engage with and serve the wider community.
“Although we are proud of all that is great about this College, we are also always keen to do better. There is no organisation on the planet that is so good that it cannot be further improved”, he said.
These efforts to improve further included the College Council currently consulting on governance reform, and the review of College culture by Elizabeth Broderick, in which students had been very actively involved. Such review and renewal is “very healthy, indeed essential”, he said.
Dr Markwell went on to speak frankly of “existential threats” to this and other colleges from people who advocate the abolition of independent colleges, or their disaffiliation from the University of Sydney.
He stressed the importance of showing that the College serves the public interest and merits public confidence.
“We are created by an Act of the NSW Parliament to serve a public purpose, and granted land in trust for a public purpose.
“We do serve the public interest – we offer opportunities which are among the best in Australia for high-quality university education in the great collegiate tradition”, Dr Markwell said.
He spoke of College as a residential academic community in the tradition of world-class collegiate education which contributed to students’ academic success and also to “the other dimensions of all-round education, including personal development and experience in leadership and service that comes through participation in other aspects of ‘the life of the mind’, and in sport, cultural activities, community service, spiritual and social activities”.
Dr Markwell said the College also served the public interest by offering “a home to students who otherwise could not readily attend the University of Sydney, including to students from the country, from inter-state, and from overseas”.
“We serve the public interest in other ways – including through the community service of our students, and the ways in which so many members of this College, having been nurtured in this training ground for leaders, have gone on to serve the wider community over several generations”.
Dr Markwell cited former Prime Ministers Gough Whitlam and Sir William McMahon, both of whom were members of the College, as exemplars of this tradition of leadership and service, which continues today.
He spoke of the need for each generation of members of the College, grateful for the opportunities they had received from the labours and generosity of those who had gone before them, to do all they could to hand the College on even better to those who came after them.