Nick Hartgerink

Professor Sheil farewelled in style

The accolades flowed from the senior executive but a Rod Stewart look-alike stole the show when the University of Wollongong community farewelled Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Margaret Sheil on Thursday night (16 August).

More than 200 people attended the dinner in honour of Professor Sheil, who has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council in Canberra.

The federally-funded ARC allocates around $550 million annually to fund research projects at universities and research centres around Australia.

Welcoming guests to the dinner, Chancellor Michael Codd AC praised Professor Sheil for her outstanding leadership of the University’s research program over the past five years and congratulated her on her appointment to one of the nation’s key research posts.

“Since you took a leadership role in research we have made enormous progress in that area,” Mr Codd said. The Chancellor said Professor Sheil’s approach to commercialisation, seed funding and intellectual property rights had paid enormous dividends for the University.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton acknowledged Professor Sheil’s many achievements over a 17-year career at UOW, including being appointed Australia’s first female Chemistry Professor in 2000, followed closely by becoming Dean of the Faculty of Science and then Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) in 2002.

“That (Pro Vice-Chancellor’s appointment) was one of the wisest decisions we ever made,” Professor Sutton said. “In the five years since that appointment we have seen an enormous escalation of our research reputation on a national and international basis. The framework, support and leadership to make that happen have come from Margaret.”

Professor Sutton said the University could take great pride in Professor Sheil’s achievements, and in her ARC role - the first time a UOW academic has been appointed to the top job at the ARC.

Other speakers included Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer, who acknowledged Professor Sheil’s powerful support for the University’s female academics; Dean of Arts Professor Andrew Wells, who spoke of Professor Sheil’s “energy, quickness of mind, passion and humour”; and Dean of Engineering Professor Chris Cook, who presented an amusing “sonnet” of “survival hints for Margaret’s new staff in Canberra”.

But one of Professor Sheil’s former Chemistry Department colleagues, Professor Leon Kane-Maguire stole the show in a double act with Professor Gordon Wallace. With Professor Wallace on guitar and Professor Kane-Maguire dressed in a Rod Stewart wig, the pair performed a tribute to Professor Sheil - their adaptation of the Stewart classic Maggie May.

Professor Sheil described her 17 years at UOW as “an incredible learning experience”.

She acknowledged her first department head, Professor Kane-Maguire, who had taught her many things including the importance of good recruitment and Professor John Bremner who taught her the value of taking good ideas, and sticking with them.

She praised the success of women in UOW’s professional ranks and thanked them and all the Faculty Deans for their support.

But she reserved special praise for Professor Sutton, who she described as “an incredible leader and an outstanding boss”, and thanked her husband Chris Nicholson and daughter Lizzie for their love and support.


  • Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton presents a gift to Professor Margaret Sheil at her farewell function

  • Leon Kane-Maguire (aka Rod Stewart) and Gordon Wallace perform their tribute to Margaret Sheil, to the tune of Maggie May

  • From left: Professor Sheil with her daughter Lizzie, PA Rochelle Waren and husband Chris Nicholson at the farewell dinner

  • Chancellor Michael Codd AC (left) and Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerard Sutton with Professor Sheil at her farewell dinner