Forty years ago today, now Professor Emeritus David Pegg (School of Natural Sciences) delivered the first lecture at Griffith University.

In the pre-internet world of blackboards, pens and paper, the subject was mathematics, the location was Room 0.06 in the N25 Science 1 building at Nathan campus, and the time was 8.30am on March 3, 1975.

“The students, all part of the new School of Science, filed in and the first words I spoke after they settled down were: ‘First, here’s an exercise for you’,” recalls Professor Pegg.

(To learn more about that exercise, and its consequences, please see the accompanying video)

Professor Pegg says those first days of teaching were hectic, challenging and exciting.

“From the start it was apparent that Griffith wanted to be a new kind of university for a changing Australia,” he says.

“Griffith and Murdoch were the first fee-free universities in the country and there was a definite feeling that this was the beginning of a new era in tertiary education.”

Two days after Professor Pegg’s inaugural lecture, Griffith University’s official opening ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

“The first cohort of Griffith students was 451 strong. The student body was divided evenly between males and females and included five international students. Today we have more than 9000 international students from more than 130 different countries,” says Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor.

“The University started with a total of 87 staff of whom 42 were academics. One of these pioneering academics was David Pegg, who will tell you that things were very different back then, although innovation in teaching has been a constant in the ensuing 40 years of the University’s history.”

Professor Pegg retired in 2009, having seen Griffith expand to embrace five campuses and tens of thousands of students.

He retains fond memories of Griffith’s first student cohort and they keep in touch to this day. In fact, the 40 Year Foundation Science Student Reunion will be held at Nathan on March 14.

To acknowledge 40 years since the beginning of teaching at Griffith, Professor Pegg delivered a commemorative lecture at Nathan this morning (March 3).