Seventy people, aged between 18 and 73 and coming from as far away as Victoria, were presented with membership of an international society of outstanding students during a ceremony at the University of New England last Friday.
The Golden Key International Honour Society provides recognition, career assistance, scholarships and networking for undergraduate and honours students in the top 15 per cent of their field of study. The UNE Chapter of Golden Key, established in 2002, is one of more than 370 Chapters of the Society at universities and colleges around the world. Golden Key not only recognises academic achievement but also encourages service to the community.
Friday’s ceremony included the presentation of honorary membership of the Society to the Hon. Richard Torbay MP, an award for five years of service to the Chapter to UNE Careers Counsellor Airlie Bell, and a new member scholarship to Psychology Honours student Sarah Eagle. In introducing Ms Eagle, the 2009 President of the UNE Chapter, Alicia Zikan (pictured here), mentioned her volunteer work as a teacher of Tibetan refugees in northern India and her fund-raising activities, which have included walking a total of 2,500 km in Australia and Europe.
Winnie Liu, University Relations Officer for Golden Key’s Asia-Pacific Region, took part in the ceremony on the lawns of “Booloominbah”, at which friends and relatives of the new members saw the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Pettigrew, present them with their certificates of membership.
Professor Pettigrew thanked Ms Zikan, Ms Bell, and all University staff members and students who had worked at maintaining the “very high values” of UNE – values recognised and rewarded by the Golden Key Society.
In presenting Mr Torbay with his honorary membership, Ms Bell outlined his outstanding service to the New England community as a former Mayor of Armidale and current Member for Northern Tablelands and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, and to UNE as a former employee and Chief Executive Officer of the UNE Union, and as the University’s current Chancellor. “His enormous energy and good humour as he travels across the electorate are legendary,” she said.
Mr Torbay congratulated the new student members, saying: “It’s important as an institution that we recognise those around us who go that extra mile.”
One of the new members, Deirdre Benson, began studying in 2007 towards a Bachelor of Arts degree by distance education – at the age of 71.
Mrs Benson, who lives in a retirement village in Goulburn, said that all her children had gained university degrees, and that it was now her turn. She said her experience as a UNE student had been even more rewarding than she had expected. “I’m meeting people through study who I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” she said – some of those people even having stayed with her in Goulburn.
Another new member – Karen Osborne from Emmaville, NSW – began her UNE studies as a distance-education student in 2003, has gained a Bachelor of Arts degree, and is now studying for a Graduate Diploma in Humanities. “It’s been wonderful,” she said. “It’s become a huge part of my life, and has changed me as a person.”
“It’s good to be recognised – particularly as an external student,” Ms Osborne added.
Clicking on the image of Alicia Zikan displayed here reveals a photograph of Ms Zikan with the Hon. Richard Torbay MP and Mrs Deirdre Benson.