Vale Graham Dick 14.10.1939 - 22.2.2021

Graham completed his ASTC, FIO in optometry at the Sydney Technical College.  His first years in practice included driving the travelling consulting room (TCR) for Gibb and Beeman (now part of Luxottica) around country New South Wales. 

He started at UNSW in 1966 as a Professional Officer in the Department of Optometry, School of Physics.  He looked after the teaching laboratory.  At that time Optometry was located in the Sydney Technical College in Ultimo.  In July 1973 he submitted his MSc thesis entitled “ELECTRO-OCULOGRAPHY” under the supervision of Josef Lederer. 

In 1974 he was appointed a lecturer and the Department of Optometry was now part of the School of Applied Physics and Optometry.  Graham’s teaching responsibilities ranged through optics of spectacle lenses and ophthalmic instruments, the remedial reading clinic (the first such clinic in Sydney), low vision and the teaching clinic at Garrawarra Hospital, which was an aged care facility well south of Sydney in Waterfall. 

Many former students have spoken kindly of Graham’s efforts in teaching them the optics in third year.  Optics never was a popular subject with students and after a year of the subject in second year, they were not best pleased to face some more.  Graham was one of the very first to provide the students with printed notes.  But he did leave words and phrases out as an inducement to actually attend lectures.  Graham always wanted a lecture room which had a blackboard so that he could use chalk and his ever present metre rule to draw ray diagrams in his optics lectures.  Several students have written with gratitude about his efforts to make optics approachable.  Rumour had it that he was working on a PhD but, sadly, this never materialised.  In the late 70’s, Graham designed all the interface electronics for the InterData 7/16 mini-computer that the Department had bought and was used by other researchers.  Its main task was to control slide projectors, input controllers, mirror galvanometers and the ASR33 teleprinter.  All of Graham’s projects were successes.  Earlier, he had gone off to North Sydney TAFE to do an electronics certificate/diploma, so his skills had a formal background in addition to his innate abilities. 

Graham was well known for his driving exploits He was credited as the first person to roll a TCR (but not the last and not the first to write off a TCR).  He is also credited with the land speed record for a TCR, reputedly something greater than 100 mph (1964).  Many a student came back from the trip to Garrawarra rather pale-faced!!  

Graham also had a quirky and mischievous sense of humour, not to mention a bit of slapstick.    A high ledge in the teaching laboratory in Marianne Street, Ultimo was populated by him with paper projectiles.  In early 1974 a famous event took place one Friday night at The Old Spaghetti Factory on the Rocks.  At dinners, attended by assorted staff and graduate students, there had developed a something tradition of throwing garlic butter (in particular) and food (in general) to the extent that some came prepared with raincoats.  The war continued into the Gents at one stage. 

One of the attendees was a newly appointed lecturer from the USA who had been in UNSW for just six weeks.  Suffice it to say that by the Monday, he was on a plane back to the USA. 

Graham was later appointed to that job, maybe he was just managing his own career!!  On the other hand, it was, apparently, not the last of those events. 

In 1975, Graham’s first lecture to the second years (students’ first Optometry lecture since the first year was a common science first year) was taken by one of the 3rd year students with another 3rd year in the audience correcting him and adding to the information.  Eventually the student was carried from the lecture room.  Graham did not initiate the prank, but he embraced it fully and dined out on it for many years after.  There is the story that he once accidentally occluded both eyes of a patient and asked them to read the letters, they said that they couldn’t see anything, so he asked them to read what they think they could see, or something like that!!! 

His address on eye movements to the Optometry Section of the ANZAAS conference in Hobart allegedly started with “There are three kinds of eye movements, big ones, little ones and eensy-teensy ones…”.  Graham’s great love of golf was practised in the corridors of the Newton Building, where he concentrated on getting a particular sound from his swing.


Former students have sent memories

“The closest thing that optometry in Australia will ever get to Maxwell Smart”. The guy was hilarious. He made THE most boring of all subjects, the Theory of Optical Instruments, bearable despite the fact that nobody got more than 25% in the final exam”. 

“Graham was great fun to be around”

“He was the reason I got into Optometry.”

“Helped me heaps when I was doing Optometry.  So many times Mr Dick encouraged me to push forward.  Especially since I was stranger in a strange land.  Indeed an awesome individual.  I would forever be thankful.”

“Graham had a wicked sense of humour. Great old school lecture who focused on his teaching.”

“He was an amazing teacher.”

“He was a great mentor and friend to all during my time at UNSW. He was perhaps the biggest kid in the group and we loved him for it. He was simply a great bloke who loved his family and optometry deeply..”

Graham found many willing co-conspirators amongst the students and colleagues, one, who fits in both categories, wrote “He was entertaining and very patient with our antics.”

All are convinced that today’s students have nothing like the fun of those of Graham’s era.

Graham was one of those people who grew older but reserved the right never to grow up.  Best way to be!


Graham retired from the School in 2001.


Stephen Dain

With the help of Phil Anderton, Max Astri, Renita Chou, Lance Kwok, Keith Masnick, Charles Di Natale, Lee Pepper, Ben Purba, Dave Pye, Laura Reale, Murray Stanley, Tim Thurn, Lou Udovitch, Lewis Williams, Mark Wojt, Steve Zantos