In his six years as Chancellor of Federation University, Dr Paul Hemming estimates he presided over about 70 graduation ceremonies and shook hands with more than 15,000 students.
And it’s the joy and happiness on the faces of the graduating students and their families that he will miss when he starts retirement on Friday.
“It’s been a big part of my life and it’s always so wonderful seeing their faces and the happiness of their families – that’s the bit I will miss more than anything,” he said before his retirement dinner at Federation University.
During his six years as chancellor and 11 years on the university council Dr Hemming has seen tremendous change – most notably the university’s change of name from the University of Ballarat to Federation University in 2014.
The change was prompted by the university’s acquisition of its Gippsland campus from Monash University.
“We decided it was appropriate not just to grow the university across the state but also to consider a possible name change. It really took a lot of work trying to develop an appropriate new name,” he said.
“Local people, including the City of Ballarat, were really concerned that the place shouldn’t lose its position in Ballarat and I think we have done that very well.”
Since the Gippsland expansion, Federation University has also opened a campus at Berwick and in Brisbane.
“We are really spread right across the state now trying to provide access to higher education for students in regional areas.”
He said he was proud of the university’s reputation and standing, with the institution receiving five star ratings for teaching and student support from the Commonwealth Good Universities Guide.
“It’s important in a regional setting that students get the support they need so they don’t give up and not complete. We have done that really well and it’s a great reputation to have.”
The growth in mature aged and international students was particularly pleasing, he said, and added to the fabric of the university and the Ballarat community.
“International students bring a different culture in to the town of Ballarat and through the campus. It’s a good experience for them coming to university … and they bring in their culture and social life which is good for all of the students.”