At a time when Australia grapples with widespread skill shortages and the challenges facing rural communities, colleagues pay tribute to the work of Professor Graham McDowell OAM.
A former Deputy Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University, Professor McDowell was responsible for establishing and developing the university's campuses in Wodonga, Bendigo, Mildura and Shepparton.
While Graham had a distinguished academic career in agricultural science, further evidence of his legacy are the many graduates who now bolster the skills of regional Victoria in education, nursing, social work, environmental and biosciences, to name just a few.
Born in Maryborough, Queensland, in 1944, Graham distinguished himself as a scientist, sportsman, academic and diplomat.
His family moved to Melbourne in 1948 and after matriculating at Box Hill High School, Graham undertook degree studies in Agriculture at Melbourne University.
He completed his PhD studies at the Dairy Research Unit of the University of Sydney and post-doctoral studies at the Gades Institute in Norway.
He went on to become the research director of the University of Sydney's Dairy Research Foundation.
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His associate John Hill states "the practical and physiological understandings derived from his work were substantial for the dairy industry".
Graham's commitment to cattle is well-known and he continued his farming in Gippsland up until his death in April 2022.
As John says, "he knew cows like he knew his family".
In 1989 he was appointed to the Chair of Agricultural Science where he later became Dean, Chair of the Academic Board and Deputy Vice Chancellor - Regions and Research.
Graham was also committed to fostering La Trobe's international connections across Asia, especially China, Thailand, and Myanmar.
In 2020, Graham received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the dairy industry and education.
But it is his contribution to the regions which is probably best remembered by John Hill and Vernon Knight.
"Deputy VC Regional was itself a full-time role. Graham not only created strategies to promote and develop the regional campuses, he also created opportunities for 'in situ' regional growth," John said.
"Perhaps his most significant achievement in Wodonga was his success in obtaining Commonwealth funding for the relocation of the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre to the Wodonga campus in a purpose-built facility now known as the Nancy Millis Building."
Vernon particularly remembers Graham's strident advocacy when there was a concerted push to centralise La Trobe's operations and the potential downsizing of the regional campuses.
"While La Trobe was established as a university 'for all Victorians', the regions were vulnerable to economic pressures and the push to cut costs," he said.
Graham made it clear that the regional campuses "were here to stay!"
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