Honorary Doctorate bestowed on the legendary Dr Wendy Harmer
Honorary Doctorate bestowed on the legendary Dr Wendy Harmer


Honorary Doctorate bestowed on the legendary Dr Wendy Harmer

May 29, 2019

As the leaves on the China Pear and Liquidambar trees around campus were starting to turn amber and gold, Macquarie University’s autumn graduation series in April featured several honorary doctorates being awarded.

A fine selection of Australian and International esteemed community leaders received honorary doctorates acknowledging their exceptional contributions to society in their respective fields.

Broadcaster, author and comedian Wendy Harmer received an honorary doctorate in recognition of her ground-breaking work in journalism and comedy. On receiving the prestigious award Ms Harmer exclaimed, “Oh my goodness me, that’s a bit exciting!”

In a career spanning four decades, Ms Harmer has been a pioneer for women in media and has found success as a journalist, columnist, radio broadcaster, TV host, author, playwright and comic performer. She is the author of some 30 fiction and reference books for children, teens and women, and is currently the co-host of ABC Radio Sydney’s weekday breakfast program alongside Robbie Buck.

“It is a totally unexpected thrill to be awarded this honorary doctorate by Macquarie University,” said Ms Harmer.

“All those hours my late father, the headmaster, spent around the kitchen table correcting my essays with a thick, red pencil and incessantly correcting my grammar have finally paid off! Thanks Dad, and many thanks indeed to Macquarie University.”

Macquarie University’s Vice Chancellor Professor S. Bruce Dowton described Ms Harmer as “creative, highly productive and erudite,” and someone who has “given a great deal to the community.”

Ms Harmer began working as a cadet reporter at the Geelong Advertiser in 1974, the first female cadet in that newsroom since the newspaper was founded in 1840. In the late 1980s Ms Harmer became a well-known stand-up comedian, at a time when very few women ventured into that field of work.

Beyond her professional life and her extensive experience in the media industry, Wendy has also overcome well-documented adversity in her personal life.

“When I was a kid, everyone who wasn’t a doctor said I had a “hare lip” – a description that still persists today among ignorant people. It comes to us from medieval times when it was believed that a hare must have crossed the path of a pregnant woman and bewitched the child in her belly, so that it is born with a face that’s half-human, half-animal. I’d heard plenty of jokes about people with a “hare lip”. I’d heard the insult “as ugly as a spider with a hare lip” when I was a kid.”

Following several gruelling operations on her face during her teen years to correct the cleft lip and palate, and with a big dose of resilience and a zest for life, Wendy offers up some wise words.

“The lesson I’d like to offer is this: love your family, wherever you find them. They are there for you, even in the nondescript middle seats on a school bus. Protect and fight for them as fiercely as they will for you. The bus trip of life is both longer and shorter than you imagine”.

Other honorary doctorates were awarded to Fiona Crosbie who was bestowed a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) for her contribution to the legal profession. Ms Crosbie is a Macquarie law alumna and the first female Chairman of international law firm Allens in its near 100-year history.

Committed Macquarie volunteer and alumnus Noel Wagg received an honorary doctorate for his service volunteering at graduation ceremonies for almost a decade.

Professor Jim Patrick AO received a Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) for his contributions to the field of hearing. Professor Patrick is a world expert on the Cochlear Implant, being one of the engineers in the team who pioneered the hearing device.

Macquarie law alumnus Sue Kench, one of Australia’s leading lawyers and Global Chief Executive of King & Wood Mallesons, was awarded a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) for her impressive legal career.

Janet Gale received an honorary doctorate for the significant contribution she and her late husband Dr William (Bill) Lesch Gale have made as benefactors to Macquarie University, particularly the Museum of Ancient Cultures. They also helped establish the Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies in 1999.

Honorary degrees are awarded in recognition of exceptional achievement or contribution in relation to a particular field or discipline, to the University or society. The recipients of honorary awards represent a balanced group that demonstrates the breadth of the University’s areas of interest and expertise.


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