Don Roy in PhD regalia

Lifelong learner

Friday, December 8, 2023
Brenton Stacey
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Brenton Stacey

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Brenton is Avondale University’s Public Relations and Philanthropy Officer. He brings to the role experience as a communicator in publishing, media relations, public relations, radio and television, mostly within the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and its entities.

Curiosity drives Don; now our oldest PhD graduate

An adjunct senior lecturer became the oldest person to complete doctoral study at Avondale when he graduated from the university this past weekend.

Don Roy received a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) for a second time. “I’ve always been a curious person, and I’m not content unless I’ve got answers,” he says. “I don’t always expect to find answers because, as the adage goes, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. But writing the thesis has created conversation, which has clarified my thinking and the thinking of others.”

Don adopted a critical realist approach to explore the changing mission of Seventh-day Adventist education in Australia over the past 55 years, “a period where I’ve been involved as a teacher, an academic [Don is a former head of school at Avondale] and an administrator.” His thesis supports a definition of mission not as what we do but why we do what we do—our motivation, our commitment. “My research also asks questions about how we can better engage with a population in our schools that is predominantly non-Adventist, even unchurched.”

The awarding of Don’s degree came a day before his 84th birthday.

Joining him as PhD graduates are Linda Cloete and Vladka Henley. Linda, a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Health, used a multi-method approach to evaluate the possibility of reversing type 2 diabetes mellitus and to assess their experience of doing so. Vladka, a high school teacher, explored the factors influencing parents when choosing an Australian faith-based school for their children.

Don, Linda and Vladka are three of the 243 students who were eligible to march during the ceremonies in Avondale University Church on Sunday (December 10). Almost half the graduation class members are undergraduate nurses, who, according to a government-endorsed national survey, rank their course number one in Australia across all categories.

In a new graduation tradition, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students who earn the highest grade point average from their school received the University Medal during the ceremonies. Recipients this year are: Brock Goodall and Isobel Plewright (School of Arts and Business); Katie Askin and David Lu (School of Ministry and Theology); Melinda Crevar and Rachael Curnuck (School of Education and Science), and; Andrea Kross and Bryn McIlwain (School of Nursing and Health).

Students identified as high or consistent achievers received academic prizes. David Lu and Bailee McLeod are Lake Macquarie campus recipients of the prestigious Avondale Prize For Excellence; Lillian Martin is the Sydney campus recipient. David (Clifford Anderson Ministry Prize) is one of three students receiving multiple prizes. Zoe Cochrane is receiving three—Adventist Media Digital Media and Journalism Prize, Allen and Andrea Steele Huguenot History Prize and the W A Townend Christian Journalism Prize—and Hayley Dut two—Barritt Primary Teacher’s Literacy Prize and Ministry of Teaching (Primary) Prize.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea worshipped with the graduands during the valedictory service on Saturday (December 9). In a brief devotional and motivational message, James Marape, a Seventh-day Adventist, told the class members “you’re painting your life story on a canvas.” “Paint it well,” he added, because every part of the story is a foundation for another. The message: you are creating something for eternity.

The graduation class motto, Wherever you go, comes from a verse in the book of Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9, NKJV). This is a “reassuring” promise at a time when change and uncertainty are the new normal, writes Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Kerri-Lee Krause in her graduation message. With COVID lockdowns, social distancing and pivots to online learning demanding “resilience, determination and grit,” Kerri-Lee is “so proud of the personal, academic and spiritual growth” of graduates. “May God continue to give you a greater vision of world needs,” she writes, and “the courage to live that vision.”