In 2004 Sue, a creative, stylish, warm and strategic leader, joined the UTS senior executive - a team of economists, accountants and statisticians. It was as if a bomb of colour and a new language had been thrown into the room – she soon proved she also knew her way around a spreadsheet - a worthy colleague who could compete with the rest of us in the annual budget allocation sagas and debates on priorities and business cases.
Sue had been recommended to UTS as a “poacher and gamekeeper in the Australian research arena” and as “someone who knows her own mind and speaks it in the most compelling way”. She had of course her own distinguished academic career and now she was leading Research for the institution - developing others careers was the deep skill and expertise that she bought. Of course we now raced up the rankings for style and flair – oh the coats, shoes and broaches.
Sue had many achievements at UTS • reviewing and repositioning UTS research and setting in place a strategy to grow its breadth and depth. • Her wonderful work in building UTS’s reputation as a creative and innovative university. Sue led the wonderful “Beautiful Minds” Nobel Exhibition from Sweden including an excellent public program. • She was also the driving force to establish the Federal Governments Creative Industries Innovation Centre at UTS in 2009.
Sue was a great friend and colleague to Vicki and Ross our then Chancellor and VC, and all her executive colleagues.
She was also a very warm and nurturing mentor to so many of her staff and to researchers across the university - in particular the early career researchers to whom she paid special attention. She was far less fond of the behavioural challenges that can flare in academia from time to time – or perhaps all the time! Oh the wounds and woes – for all of her warmth she was also no-nonsense – get over it and get on with it. One day I told her I didn’t have a caring bone left in my body after a full day of difficult staff issues. The next day she bought me her necklace of bone to wear whenever I needed extra caring bones or hang on my door for those that really didn’t need me to care for them. It became our symbol for tougher days as the bone necklace moved between our offices.
For 5 years Sue and I worked in neighbouring offices, shared many post work dinners often with others, shared a car for a couple of years driving to and from work together and we even lived in the same apartment block for a while in Pyrmont. I guess we should not have been surprised when it became clear some staff thought we were an item. One staff member told me how sorry she was to hear that Sue and I were heading back to Melbourne – an interesting leap in the story! (that would have been a surprise for you Jim!).
Driving to and from work we empathised over the clearly unreasonable demands Chancellors and V Cs? placed on DV Cs? or workshopped other work matters. This quickly moved to family, gardens, her quilting, pondering when Anna might make her a grandmother and more. Our friendship extended far beyond those shared working years. Her retirement bought visits between Sydney and Melbourne – staying at Wolfden always a highlight - fun, warmth, good food and wine, the garden and chatting in the spa. Getting to know her family and her deep love for them has been a particularly lovely aspect of my friendship with Sue.
Above all Sue you were a builder – a builder of people – you called it building on the rock at UTS – the long term foundation building of people’s careers for their success and ours. For you though this went far beyond your work – you mentored and supported young and not so young colleagues, researchers, friends and family – your deep interest in helping so many of us along the way in small and quiet ways and in bigger institution building ways.
Thank you Sue we miss you.