A heartfelt affinity, half a century on

19 Sep 2018
Wool and Pastoral Sciences reunion

At their milestone reunion, UNSW’s Wool and Pastoral Sciences Class of 1968 fondly celebrated a kinship that has endured for more than five decades.

It is 1968 and a group poses for their graduation photo; their four-year Wool and Pastoral Sciences (WAPS) degree at UNSW’s Faculty of Science has come to a triumphant close. Proudly attired in black gowns and mortarboards, they are fresh-faced young adults ready to take on the world. In addition to the title they’ve accomplished alongside one another, they share something special: a deep familial friendship.

Theirs is a bond born of mutual experiences, within a small class, at a formative time of their lives. They stand together, all facing in the same direction, not knowing exactly how their paths will diverge after the camera shutter clicks…

Fast forward to the evening of Tuesday, 15 May 2018 and the group has reconvened for their 50-year reunion. While many have stayed in touch over the years and attended catch-up luncheons, this is the first time they have formally gathered, with partners in tow – but you’d hardly know time had passed. The venue is the Royal Automobile Club of Australia in Sydney’s CBD, and the packed room is brimming with conversation and warmth.

In his welcoming speech, reunion co-organiser Alf Salter acknowledges the tremendous effort everyone has made to get together, given commitments and geographic constraints. He also pays respects to those who unfortunately could not be present: Nick Ellwood, and the late Peter Jennings who sadly passed away while on a mountaineering expedition in Patagonia soon after graduating.

UNSW’s Faculty of Science has seen many changes over the past five decades, having evolved to meet the changing landscape of Australian society and driving forces in science. In stark contrast to its ’68 alumni cohort, the degree in Wool and Pastoral Sciences has subsequently dissolved.

Commenting on the climate that engendered these changes, reunion co-organiser Graham Eagleton says: “In the old days, Australia was the wool on the sheep's back. That's no longer the case. Already, as we were graduating, we started to sense that change. So that's probably why we ended up in so many different areas. You could see that wool was no longer going to be the economic lever.”

“We had such a diverse group,” Dr Michael “Mick” Tierney OAM adds. “Not too many of us have actually finished up doing much in wool and pastoral science.”