Family weaves a successful web
One of Adelaide's high profile academic families will remember the years spanning 1999 to 2004 as poignant ones, for a number of different reasons.
It was a period marked by academic highlights for the Webb family, and also of great sadness, with the death of former Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, Bruce Webb, in 2000.
Over five consecutive years, a family member stepped up to the graduation plate at the University, either as a recipient or a presenter.
Between former Chancellor, the late Bruce Webb AM, and two of his offspring--Anna and Jonathan--eight graduations have been celebrated at the University of Adelaide.
It's a moot point whether another family has enjoyed such a strong connection, or academic record, in the University's 132-year history.
Bruce Webb AM paved the academic path for his children, graduating with a Masters in Geology at the University of Adelaide in 1955. He began his career as a field geologist in Broken Hill and rose to prominence in 1972 after being appointed Director-General of the South Australian Department of Mines and Energy.
During his distinguished career, Mr Webb served on many government bodies and in 1992 was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the minerals and energy industry.
Mr Webb was Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1998 to 2000. In the intervening years he maintained close ties with the North Terrace campus, serving as a member of the University Council since 1955 and as convenor of the University's Finance Committee. He died in 2000, aged 73, after a short illness.
Former Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mary O'Kane, described the late Mr Webb as a man of "intelligence, kindness and one with a huge commitment to education.
"He was committed to establishing the University of Adelaide as one of the world's great universities and he was a strong believer in the need for the University to develop strategic partnerships."
One such partnership--with Oxford University--has borne fruit in a very personal sense for the Webb clan.
Last December, 25-year-old Jonathan Webb was awarded an Australia-At-Large Rhodes Scholarship to undertake a Masters of Philosophy in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology at Oxford University.
Jonathan completed a Bachelor of Arts in 2001 and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Molecular Biology in 2004. He is currently doing PhD research at the University of Adelaide with Dr Kirk Jensen in the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science.
In the tradition of the Rhodes Scholar, Jonathan is not only an outstanding academic performer, but is also heavily involved in the community through Anglican Church outreach services and fund raising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Jonathan has performed in many musicals, including two seasons of Les Misérables, which raised over $250,000 for Multiple Sclerosis, and also allowed him to exercise his love of the arts. He has enjoyed a long association with church and university choirs and currently sits on the executive of the Australian Intervarsity Choral Societies' Association.
His sister, Anna, has also been blessed with academic and artistic talent.
28-year-old Anna graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1999, majoring in German and Japanese as well as studying some Linguistics, English and Philosophy.
Anna began studying for her Bachelor of Music in 1996, first as a violinist and then taking up the viola two years later. She graduated with Honours in 2001. To top off her two degrees, Anna completed a Graduate Diploma of Education in 2004. All of this study was mixed with an increasingly hectic working life of performing and teaching instrumental music.
Using her Dip. Ed., Anna taught Music, German and English as a Second Language for a period, but now divides her time between practising and performing chamber music, teaching instrumental music, and directing some ensembles and choirs.
Both Jonathan and Anna studied at the University during their father's tenure as Chancellor.
Anna's graduation with a Bachelor of Arts in 1999 is particularly poignant. "My Arts parchment has Dad's signature on it. He was particularly pleased to be officiating at that graduation. He was always a gently supportive presence in my life and I still miss him very much," Anna said.
"We used to drive in to university together in the mornings and I remember him questioning all my friends about their opinions on the university issues of the time."
Jonathan said his father would have been proud of his Rhodes Scholarship, "in a wonderfully one-eyed way".
"He would have been thrilled that I was even in a position to apply for it. I think he would have instantly looked up 10 books about Oxford and brought them home to show me.
"Anna likes to think that Dad's around when it's raining. A few times it's rained just prior to her performing for a big audition or a concert. And just after I heard the announcement in Canberra about my scholarship, there was an absolute downpour. We think that's a sign he's pretty happy!" ■
Story Candy Gibson