4 May 2022

UC, arts community, pay tribute to Professor Don Aitkin, dead at 84

| Ian Bushnell
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Professor Don Aitkin

Professor Don Aitkin (1937-2022) was an elder statesman of the University of Canberra. Photo: Academy of Social Sciences.

The University of Canberra has paid tribute to former vice-chancellor Don Aitkin who has died, aged 84.

Vice Chancellor Professor Paddy Nixon said the University of Canberra was extremely saddened by the news of Professor Aitkin’s death in Canberra on Tuesday (12 April).

“Don was an ‘elder statesman’ of the University of Canberra, and served as Vice-Chancellor and President for eleven years from 1991 until his retirement in 2002. He remains the longest serving Vice-Chancellor to date,” he said.

Professor Nixon said Professor Aitkin was a leader in his time and instrumental in the transformation of UC from the Canberra College of Advanced Education.

“He developed the University’s identity and established UC firmly on the national and international stage,” he said. “We stand in that legacy today and will continue to honour Don’s memory by pursuing excellence in research, teaching and administration.

“We convey our deepest sympathies to the Aitkin family and Don’s friends and colleagues on the loss of their father, grandfather, friend and colleague.”

Professor Aitkin was a political scientist, writer and administrator.

Until 2012 he was chairman of the National Capital Authority and was vice-president of the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee in 1994 and 1995.

He played an influential role in the evolution of national policies for research and higher education from the mid-1980s, when he was the Chairman of the Australian Research Grants Committee, a member of the Australian Science and Technology Council, and Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Advanced Studies at the ANU.

He was the first chairman of the Australian Research Council in 1988 and established the new body as a national research council of world class and its funding trebled during his term of office.

Professor Aitkin also chaired the Cultural Facilities Corporation, which operates the Canberra Theatre, historic places and Canberra Museum and Gallery for almost a decade. The Corporation gives annual awards in his name to staff and volunteers who display passion and dedication by making an outstanding contribution to furthering the goals of the Corporation.

He was a particularly strong advocate of bringing the Nolan Collection into Canberra Museum and Gallery, and Chair at the time of the opening of the Nolan Gallery.

“Don recognised the importance of the arts and culture, both for enriching the lives of individuals and for ensuring that our city is a vibrant, diverse and rewarding place to live and had a particular passion is to encourage everyone to explore their creative potential, and to participate in cultural experiences,” Cultural Facilities Corporation CEO Gordon Ramsay said.

“Don was generous with his time as well as his personal resources in supporting each arm of the CFC, for which we remain incredibly grateful.”

Professor Aitkin also chaired Pro Musica, the founding organisation for the Canberra International Music Festival and was a much-loved advocate for the arts across the ACT.

He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1998.

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What a great person!

Shan Weereratne1:40 pm 13 Apr 22

He will always be remembered as the father of University of Canberra. RIP sir !!

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