Griffith honours Gold Coast visionary

Gold Coast pioneer Mr Jock McIlwain has received an Honorary Doctorate for his contribution to the city and Griffith University

A man who helped shape the modern Gold Coast has received an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University.

Former engineer, developer and city councillor, Mr Jock McIlwain, has beenacknowledgedfor hiscontribution to the city and the University. Heaccepted the honourduring a special ceremony at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

At 87, John Robert (Jock)McIlwain doesn’t waste time on empty conversation or standing still. Just as when he first arrived on the Gold Coast in 1959, he remains a man of firm opinions and admirable energy.

So too does he continue to look ahead, ever eager to contribute to the city he loves and believes in so ardently.

That belief isespecially clear with regard to education. It also explains Mr McIlwain’s delight at being recognisedby Griffith University, an institution the existence of which might never have occurred without his tireless resolve.

It was back in 1967,just a year after being elected to thecity council,that Mr McIlwain first advocated the need for a tertiary presence on the Gold Coast.

“A university brings maturity and depth to a city and even back then I could see what that could mean for a growing city like the Gold Coast,” Mr McIlwain said.

Knowledge and expertise

“I felt that by offering tertiary education to our young people, it meant that after graduating they could then apply their knowledge and expertise in the same city. The benefits worked both ways and so I kept on about it, kept pushing and pushing.

“And look at it now. Griffith University is, I believe, one of the most exciting campuses in the world and it is making a major contribution to the economy, welfare and reputation of the Gold Coast.”

Of course, a Gold Coast-based university was not the only cause to benefit from Mr McIlwain’s determination.

“When I first became a council alderman in 1966, the Gold Coast was the sort of place that had a lot of potential. It just needed a bit of a kick along to get it started,” he said.

“That’s why I was the one who set up the council’s Promotions Committee and urged Mayor Bruce Small to promote the Gold Coast all over Australia and abroad.

“That’s why I advocated for a convention centre. That’s why I advocated for a casino and a university. And now all those things have come to pass.

“Now what we need is a decent cultural facility, a Gold Coast cultural precinct. That’s the next thing on my list.”

All this from a fellow who is supposed to be retired and spending his days painting portraits.

Ongoing commitment

A former President of the Surfers Paradise Chamber of Commerce and a man whose name graces a Gold Coast street, a park and a community centre, Mr McIlwain also expresses his ongoing commitment to the Gold Coast via significant philanthropic works. These have included generous donations to Griffith University.

Most recently he gave $25,000 to Griffith’s Science on the Go, an outreach project encouraging high school students to pursue studies in advanced mathematics and science.

In fact, Griffith is about to embark on a major expansion of science teaching on the Gold Coast campus. In 2014, a comprehensive new Bachelor of Science degree program will be introduced, a first for the region.

“What I love about science has never changed in all these years. You never stop seeking and finding,” Mr McIlwain said.

“Everything you learn takes you to something or somewhere else, to some other door that needs to be opened. I like opening doors and finding what’s behind them.”

Endlessly curious, refreshingly frank and always engaged, Jock McIlwain is still coming up with big ideas for the city he helped to shape and grow.

“I know the Gold Coast has its critics. I just happen to think they’re wrong. It is a magnificent place to live and to learn and it has so much to look forward to,” he said.

“You have to look forward. And if necessary, always be willing to give thingsa bit of a kick along.”