The University of Melbourne has conferred honorary doctorates on six eminent scholars for their endeavour in a variety of fields.
The group includes two global authorities on diverse eras of European history, a distinguished researcher in immunology and vaccines and a celebrated Indigenous leader and artist from Arnhem Land.
Joining them is a mathematician who is also a role model for women in STEM and a heritage practitioner who champions the continuing role and legacy of iconic Australian buildings and places.
The six recipients – four women and two men – were conferred with the University of Melbourne’s highest honour during various graduation ceremonies over the past week.
Professor Alexandra Walsham, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa): Professor Walsham is a pioneering historian whose incisive and rigorous historical scholarship has transformed the way we understand the radical changes of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. Currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge, she also served as Chair of the Faculty of History between 2019 and 2022 and is the first woman to hold both positions. She is President of the Historical Association, the UK’s national charity for promoting the teaching and study of history. One of Professor Walsham’s most enduring contributions is her devotion to supervision – thanks to her incisive guidance, her students now hold posts worldwide. Read more here.
Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa): Professor Fitzpatrick is her generation’s leading English-language historian of the Soviet Union. Her work has transformed the study of Soviet history, in particular the Russian revolution and the Stalin years. Among the first non-Soviet historians to gain access to Soviet archives in the 1960s, a feat many thought impossible at the time, her work has spanned the social, cultural and political history of Stalinism. At the University of Chicago, where she moved in 1990, she built the largest doctoral program in Soviet history in the English-speaking world. More recently, Professor Fitzpatrick has made a distinguished contribution to the history of migration from the Soviet world to Australia. Read more here.
Professor Anne Kelso, Doctor of Medical Science (honoris causa): A distinguished and respected researcher, Professor Kelso has made significant contributions to national and international science, community health and medicine. Her career spans research in immunology and vaccines and transformative directorship roles to progress research and pathways to better health and health care. A member of several Government and international committees, Professor Kelso has served as CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), where her impact continues to be far reaching. She was also the architect of a major initiative at the NHMRC to drive gender equality at the highest levels of the sector by recognising and rewarding the outstanding work of women in health and medical research. Read more here.
Djambawa Marawili, Doctor of Letters (honoris causa): Regarded as one of the great Indigenous leaders from Arnhem Land, for Yolngu people Marawili is the Djirrikay - equivalent of an Archbishop, Chancellor or Premier for the clans and responsible for transferring the knowledge of Yolngu law and preparing future cultural leaders. He is also a political leader and activist, campaigning for the end to discrimination and granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights to Indigenous people. As well, he participated into the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and the formation of The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Marawili is also a celebrated artist, winning national awards for his work and chairing Australia’s most successful Indigenous arts centres, as well as being a leading mentor for younger artists. Read more here.
Professor Ruth Williams, Doctor of Science (honoris causa): Professor Williams is recognised as being among the handful of top researchers in the world on stochastic networks. These networks have widespread application to areas such as factory production, and computer and telephone call scheduling, and more recently, the internet. In 2016, Professor Williams became the first, and to date only, woman to receive the prestigious John von Neumann Theory Prize from the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. She has also served in several senior leadership roles, including the presidency of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. Professor Williams is an important role model for women in STEM and actively advances women in mathematical sciences, organising networking, academic and social events. Read more here.
Mr Peter Lovell, Doctor of Architecture (honoris causa): Mr Lovell’s contribution to the stewardship of Australia’s built heritage has been outstanding. Erudite and accomplished, he has been a key member of numerous heritage committees, government reviews and professional organisations, including the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and the Executive Council of Australia ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites). Over 40 years, his architecture firm has become one of Australia’s leading conservation practices, involved in the heritage assessment and conservation of countless historic Australian buildings and places, including - in Melbourne alone - the Windsor Hotel, the Athenaeum and Regent Theatres, Trades Hall, the Immigration Museum, State Library, Shrine of Remembrance and the World Heritage-Listed Royal Exhibition Building. Read more here.
University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, congratulated the six recipients.
“These remarkable people have made enormous contributions to research and public life in their respective fields,” Professor Maskell said. “Their bold thinking, innovation and creativity has helped reshape our understanding of the world around us. We celebrate their achievements and we are proud to honour them this way.”