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Lumen Summer 2016 Issue
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Recognising our great achievers

Geoff Harcourt

Professor Emeritus Geoff Harcourt AO
Many University of Adelaide alumni make outstanding contributions in their specialist fields and are recognised in Australia and globally. 

Every year we celebrate these achievements through our Distinguished Alumni Awards which are bestowed on former and current students and staff. Three alumni are recognised in the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards – celebrated economist Professor Emeritus Geoff Harcourt; award-winning architect Professor Phil Harris and former Federal MP and occupational health professional Dr Richie Gun.

An economist of global standing

A leading international economist, gregarious storyteller, unforgettable teacher, fiery political activist and above all, a compassionate human being – Professor Emeritus Geoff Harcourt AO is all of those and more.

This larger than life character spent nearly 25 years at the University of Adelaide from 1958 where his drive and passion helped make the School of Economics one of the most respected in Australia.

A graduate of the University of Melbourne, he won travelling scholarships to Cambridge University which became his second home during a distinguished academic career.

Since the 1950s Geoff has spent part of every decade in Cambridge as a student, lecturer or fellow, and has cemented his reputation as a world authority on pioneering British economist John Maynard Keynes, and Keynes’ followers Richard Kahn, Austin and Joan Robinson and Piero Sraffa.

Now retired in Sydney, Geoff still recalls his time at the University of Adelaide with great fondness and enthusiasm.

“When I joined the University it was such a productive, cooperative, collegiate society under Peter Karmel and I worked very hard at preserving that,” says Geoff. “There was a buzz about the place and I always had an open door policy for everyone.”

During his career Geoff has published more than 420 books and papers and collected numerous prestigious awards.

In the US he was the first Australian to become a Distinguished Fellow of the History of Economics Society and to win the Veblen-Commons Award of the Association for Evolutionary Economics. He is also an Honorary Member of the European Society for the History of Economic Thought, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia and the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia.

All very impressive but, according to sports mad Geoff, his greatest achievement was being made a life member of the University of Adelaide’s ‘The Blacks’ Australian Rules Football Club.

Now 84, Geoff and wife Joan are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary with parties in Australia and England. Three of their children, Wendy, Robert and Tim, are graduates of the University of Adelaide and Rebecca is a graduate of De Montfort and Goldsmiths in the UK.

Phil Harris

Professor Phil Harris
Pioneering architect inspires a new generation

A road trip around Australia proved a career defining experience for newly qualified architect Phil Harris.

He was captivated by the historical architecture of the Australian tropics and in 1980 founded Troppo Architects with fellow University of Adelaide graduate Adrian Welke.

Thirty-five years later and Troppo is one of Australia’s most awarded architectural practices, famous for its pioneering and sensitive approach to design that embraces the environment, climate and history.

“Our university course made us socially aware and included a strong strand in building science which enabled us to investigate the interaction of design and climate,” says Phil. “It also taught us a love of drawing and those skills have been particularly useful in reproducing the historic buildings that we investigated in Darwin.”

Despite running a highly successful practice with offices around Australia, Phil has made time to give back to the University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment as a guest lecturer.

He has been a visiting research fellow and now professor, and intends to extend his investigation into the history and science of building offshore in Vanuatu. He wants to support the local community in making architectural decisions based on its own unique culture.

“Universities have to be leaders and deliver a discourse in cultural topics that are important to communities,” says Phil. “I try to do that through my research, public speaking and practice.”

Phil also has an eye on the future of architecture and has a policy of providing internships for final-year Adelaide students at Troppo, with many given employment. “It’s part of trying to keep our practice young,” he says.

Richie Gun

Dr Richie Gun AO
Caring for the underprivileged

The career of Dr Richie Gun AO has taken many directions over the years but there has always been a common focus – he’s a staunch defender of the disadvantaged and a principled advocate against the status quo.

His concern for other people has taken him from country GP and politician to a campaigning occupational health professional and now a volunteer medical practitioner in East Timor.

Richie graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1959 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and spent three years as a GP in Whyalla where he first became interested in politics.

He then practiced as a specialist anaesthetist before winning Kingston for the Australian Labor Party in 1969, a seat he held for six years. It was after leaving federal parliament that Richie moved into occupational health, which included an 18-month period as a visiting scientist with the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“I was very fortunate because this gave me a huge amount of experience before I set up the postgraduate course in occupational health at the University of Adelaide,” says Richie. “This is a legacy that I’m most pleased about as we started with about 10 students and built it up to more than 150.”

Richie was a Senior Lecturer in Occupational and Environmental Health from 1988 until 2002, after which he became the principal investigator on an epidemiological study of Australian veterans involved in the Maralinga atomic tests. He has continued his association with the University as a visiting research fellow and guest lecturer.

Since his retirement Richie has been a regular visitor to the Kimberley region in Western Australia and East Timor where he delivers much-needed medical and emergency care to remote communities.

Find out more about the Distinguished Alumni Awards at

Story by Ian Williams


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