The School pays tribute to Head of School Professor Tony Dooley, who this week departs for the UK where he will take up a position with the University of Bath.

It is not often that we farewell someone who has had a connection with the School as extensive as Tony Dooley’s. Tony first came to UNSW as a Post Doc before becoming a tenured member of staff and rising through all levels.

Tony undertook his undergraduate studies, a BSc (Hons) studying Pure Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, at the Australian National University from 1969 to 1972. After his undergraduate training, Tony went to Paris 6 University to commence the first year of his PhD studies, in Pure Mathematics.

Tony returned to ANU after a year to complete his PhD under Robert Edwards’ supervision. Robert had supervised our earlier Head of School, Garth Gaudry, in his PhD studies a few years earlier.

Tony’s thesis was titled “Lacunarity for Lie Groups”. Tony submitted his thesis three years to the day after he commenced it.

After completion of his PhD, Tony took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Flinders University under Garth Gaudry’s supervision. Garth had recently supervised another one of our former Heads of School, Michael Cowling, in his PhD studies.

Tony stayed at Flinders from 1977 to 1980 before taking up a Post Doctoral position at UNSW in November 1980. Tony’s initial appointment here was fixed term for three years, working with Gavin Brown on Ergodic Properties. Tony was appointed as a Lecturer in 1983. He has maintained an international research presence in both Harmonic Analysis and in Ergodic Theory since the early 80s, and has more than 80 peer-reviewed publications in these areas.

Tony’s career over the past 30 years has been a counter example to what was a widely held proposition at the time: that it is impossible to be promoted through all levels at UNSW.

Tony became a full professor in 1999. He served as a Panel Member for the Australian Research Council and concurrently as Deputy President of the Academic Board. He then became President of the Academic Board, a position held from 2004 to 2008.

Two of Tony’s enduring legacies in this role were the reduction in teaching sessions from 14 to 12 weeks, and the establishment of the High School Dux Scholarship scheme to attract the best to UNSW.

He returned to the School of Mathematics and Statistics and became Head of School in 2008. He has remained involved in the triumvirate of teaching, research and administration here ever since. Tony has also been Associate Dean of Strategy for the Faculty of Science, on the UNSW Council, member of the Board for NIDA, a member of the UK EPSRC Peer Review College for Mathematics and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, among other things.

Another major Tony initiative was to engage the services of a PR company to further promote the School’s brand. Tony positioned our School in the spotlight via countless radio interviews, newspaper pieces and TV interviews.

Yet another of Tony’s brave ventures as Head of School was to establish the Australian Centre for Commercial Mathematics (ACCM). This was absolutely Tony’s brainchild. It took tremendous wit, courage and persistence to get it on the path from the state of “vision” to “reality”.

Additionally, he has overseen 30 honours students, 16 PhD students and 14 research associates.

Tony has been a great communicator for the School. He has always celebrated the School’s successes, whether in teaching and learning or in research. He always maintained a constant dialogue with both academic staff and administrative staff, keeping us constantly informed of the state of play. He convened the first School Strategic Retreat, and appointed the first School Advisory Board to extend the ongoing dialogue into a broader realm.

Under Tony’s leadership we have grown as a School. Our academic staff numbers have grown from about forty to fifty. Our Advanced Mathematics student numbers have grown from tens to hundreds. But of equal importance, we have grown in stature.

We are now in a superb position to build on this.

There is no doubt Tony is a great scholar, a great leader, and a great mentor. But beyond this he is a great bloke. When Tony announced that he’d be leaving UNSW to take up a Chair in Pure Mathematics at the University of Bath in the UK, there were no whisperings among staff of anything other than regret and loss to see Tony go on the one hand, and heartfelt well wishes for the best in his future on the other.

In many of Tony’s farewell speeches for departing staff, he would say that we aren’t really saying goodbye to a member of staff, we are really establishing another outpost. This is surely the case here. The University of Bath doesn’t know yet what a truly excellent appointment it has made.

Tony, we deeply appreciate everything you have done for us and we sincerely wish you all the very best.

This is an edited version of A/Prof Bruce Henry’s farewell speech for Tony, given on 17/04/12.