By Jackson Russell
As part of the annual Australia Day honours, Whittlesea resident and La Trobe University president and vice-chancellor Professor John Dewar was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to education and professional organisations.
Since arriving in Australia from the United Kingdom nearly 25 years ago, Prof Dewar has been a champion for providing higher education to people who may not otherwise get the opportunity.
Prof Dewar said the passion came from being afforded the opportunity to attend Oxford University through a special-entry scheme for government school students.
“That was just transformational for me to be able to go to a university like that and the change in my in my life experience was just extraordinary,” he said.
“I’ve always believed in the power of not just higher education but I suppose higher education in particular to make a profound difference to people’s lives.”
One of the things Prof Dewar is most proud of in his career, along with improving La Trobe University’s global rankings, is its commitment to regional Victoria through campuses in Bendigo, Wodonga and Mildura.
Prof Dewar said having a physical presence in regional Victoria could make all the difference between someone being able to attend university or not.
“We know that once they go to the capital cities, they don’t come back. By being able to offer a degree locally, we know that we’re retaining that talent in the regions,” he said.
“For someone like me, a migrant, to come to this country make a contribution, but then to be recognized for that is just incredibly rewarding.”