The rewarding life of I. D. Smith

Ian David Smith

I was born in a small private hospital in Mary Street, Auburn, New South Wales, on 28th November, 1945, just after the end of World War II. Auburn was a very different suburb of Sydney then than it is now. It was a predominantly working class Anglo-Saxon community, whereas today it is a multicultural suburb in Sydney’s West. My father worked as a blacksmith welder at the NSW Government Railways Clyde Wagon Works and rode to work on his bicycle every day. My mother was a homemaker for our family which had two children, myself and my sister, Jennifer, who is almost 8 years younger than me. We lived in a detached house at 17 Gibbons Street, Auburn, 5 minutes’ walk from Auburn Station and I remember playing cricket on the road with my friends, as there was so little traffic in those days.

I attended Auburn North Public School until 5th class when I transferred to the Opportunity “C” class for gifted children for my final two years of primary education. My secondary education was undertaken at Homebush Boys’ High School, which I attended from 1958 until 1962, graduating with 1st Class Honours in Latin and 5As at the Leaving Certificate. I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to attend the University of Sydney, from which I graduated with 1st Class Honours and the University Medal in the field of Education, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967.

After working for the Commonwealth Banking Corporation for almost two years as a research psychologist, I won a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Stanford University, located about 30 miles from San Francisco, in what is now called Silicon Valley. In 1968 the seafare to San Francisco was about the same as the airfare, so I travelled to the United States on the P&O cruise ship “Arcadia”, which took 22 days, leaving Sydney on 19th August 1968 and arriving in San Francisco on 10th September. I remember that there were many streamers thrown from the ship to the shore at the Sydney Overseas Terminal before the ship departed on that chilly Winter afternoon. After three years of study at Stanford, I graduated with a Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, returning to take up a lectureship at the University of Sydney in the Department of Education on the 15th September 1971. My fields were Educational Psychology and Human Development and I was expected to lecture to undergraduate Arts students and conduct a weekly Masters seminar. I was granted tenure immediately, something that would be unheard of today, as new lecturers are usually given a three-year contract before being granted tenure after demonstrating their teaching and research capability.

Almost one year after returning to Sydney from the US, I married Judith Petersen on 19th August 1972 at the Wentworthville Uniting Church. We had a reception at the home of her parents, Frank and Marjorie Petersen, and Marjorie crocheted my wife’s wedding dress. We moved to Manly, where we continue to live. We have two children: Andrew, born on 15th February 1974, and Margot, born on 4th March 1977.

I worked at the University of Sydney for almost 35 years, from 15th September 1971 until 21st February 2006, being promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer in 1978 and to Associate Professor in 1991. During that time the University expanded its number of students from about 17,000 to about 43,000. The University’s Department of Education became a Faculty of Education, then a Faculty of Education and Social Work, and my Department was re-named the Department of Educational Psychology, Measurement and Technology, sometimes shortened to EPMT, or, as some wags, called it, PMT, standing for pre-menstrual tension. From December 1997 until November 2000, I was granted leave-without-pay to take up a position as Associate Professor in Psychological Studies at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where all the teachers for Singapore’s schools were trained. In my academic career, I published a book, “Human Development and Education”, 9 book chapters or monographs, and 35 articles in refereed journals.

Since retiring from the University of Sydney in 2006, I have been a Visiting Professor at Burapha University, Thailand, where I have supervised 9 Thai PhD graduates in the field of Human Resource Development. I travel to Thailand twice a year for about one month to attend my students’ PhD oral proposal and final oral examinations, as well as to teach in the Masters and PhD programs, and run workshops on research methodology. Most of my supervising is done by emailing advice and dissertation chapter corrections to my students in Thailand. As well, in 2013, I am President of the Seaforth Probus Club, a club for active retirees from business and the professions, and am Chair of the Executive Committee of the Owners’ Corporation of 32-34 Bonner Avenue Manly, the building where my wife, Judy and I live. We travel both overseas and within Australia regularly each year and enjoy good health.

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