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Vale Professor Don Watts

News story

The Curtin University community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of its former leaders, Professor Don Watts, who was hugely instrumental in the shaping of the university.

Don Watts

With an esteemed research background in chemistry and a keen interest in university governance, Professor Watts became the second Director of the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT), as Curtin was formerly known, in 1980. Under his dynamic and entrepreneurial leadership, WAIT flourished as an institution, rapidly building its student numbers, its research and development activities, its financial accountability, and its reputation as an institute of service to the community.

A significant and influential figure in Australian education, he championed the call for Australian universities to provide fee-paying courses to overseas students and led WAIT’s controversial push to achieve university status so that it could offer doctoral degrees to students, but in a way that was different to traditional universities. Curtin University of Technology became the first university of technology in Australia after the WAIT Amendment Act was passed in December 1986, and Professor Watts became the University’s first Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Watts left the university in 1987 to become the inaugural President and Vice-Chancellor of Bond University, Australia’s first private university. He was named a Member of the Order of Australia in 1998 for his services to the advancement of science in the field of chemistry, to tertiary education, and to policy development in education.

He is remembered at Curtin as a man of great intellect, energy and vision, who contributed significantly to our forward-looking character and reputation. A scholarship for high achievers is established in his name and one of the student accommodation facilities in Kurrajong Village, Don Watts House, is named after him. He received an Honorary Doctor of Technology award from the University in 1987.

As a sign of respect the flags at our Bentley Campus will be flown at half-mast on the day of Professor Watts’ funeral.