UTS celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first engineers

28 February 2017

UTS’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology marked 50 years of teaching civil and structural engineering in February – a tradition that began at UTS’s antecedent institution, the New South Wales Institute of Technology (NSWIT).

Sixty former students, academics and heads of school gathered at the new home of the faculty – the much admired metallic Building 11 now gracing Ultimo’s Broadway to celebrate the occasion.

“Many of our UTS and NSWIT alumni are leaders in their field – real captains of the industry. They have had an impact on our environment, on major building projects throughout Australia and overseas,” said Alan Brady, from UTS’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and one of the organisers of the celebration.

Engineering History: Where are alumni and staff now?
View half a century of civil engineering at UTS

Brady, who has been involved with the school in various teaching and leadership capacities for over 35 years, welcomed past students and staff, including members of the very first engineering cohort. Former faculty staff member Ken Griffiths, 90 years of age, travelled from his home in Lake Macquarie to attend the event.

Former FEIT members Ken Griffiths,and Pak Liu

Ken Griffiths, from the UTS’s first graduating cohort, reminisces with former FEIT staff member Pak Liu

Providing the keynote speech was Professor Ian Burnett, current Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and IT, who observed that the school’s history and culture of practical learning has been critical informing its future.

“Our practice-based focus was ideal for the evolution of our strong research culture. Many key appointments of outstanding researchers over the years have ensured the Faculty’s place in driving UTS research success,” said Professor Burnett.

"Engineering alumni are leaders in their field and have had an impact on our environment and on major building projects throughout Australia and overseas"

“As a leading engineering research institution, we are continually expanding our already extensive research networks with individuals, universities and research institutions around the world.”

Former faculty member Professor Simon Beecham, also shared a short video message to outlining his journey from UTS to becoming the Head of Information Technology and Engineering at the University of South Australia.

Other distinguished guests included Laurie Rose AM from the first graduating cohort; Ken Halstead, also from the first graduating cohort, who recently retired as a staff member of the school; and Greg McTaggart (Bachelor of Civil Engineering, 1981), Director of Building at the Sydney Opera House, recognised in the 2017 Australia Day Honours for his outstanding public service and role as a sustainability advocate. McTaggart attended with his son, Stuart, who is also a UTS engineering alumnus.

Together with the five living heads of school (Steve Bakoss, Geoff O'Loughlin, Bijan Samali, Viggi Vigneswaren and John Zhou), the group of civil, structural, local government, and environmental engineers were able to put aside old rivalries to candidly reminisce upon favourite personalities, buildings, old hang-outs, and various items of campus furniture that became part of the fabric of the UTS experience for generations of students.

Drawing the biggest laughs, Brady remarked, “Remembering things that happened 50 years ago is getting easier. It’s remembering what happened last week that’s the problem!”

Former UTS staff member Alan Brady

 Former UTS staff member Alan Brady.

The reunion observed many significant changes to the way engineering is taught at UTS. In 1967, the first student intake was capped at 90 per year. Today, it stands at around 400. The faculty has also expanded its industry links to overseas partnership agreements, such as the establishment of the Joint Engineering and Innovation Institute with Shanghai University.

But for many in the assembled crowd, it was enough to marvel at the new Faculty of Engineering and IT building, and to leave an autograph and a few thoughts at a memory wall that was created for the occasion.

Crowd from the FEIT event

See all photos from the event here

What were your memories of studying engineering on campus? We’d love to hear when your journey has taken you – share your story with us here.

Story by Kevin Cheung
Photography by Kevin Cheung and Andrew Mason