Dianne, Kelly, Kirra, Peter and other members of the Choquenot family, Chancellor, Deputy Chancellor, colleagues.
David Choquenot was a great leader, an excellent scholar, a terrific colleague – and in my case a personal friend. He was decent, generous, balanced, clever, strategic, no-nonsense.
David was a head-banger, but it was never other people’s heads: only his own, to loud and progressive rhythms.
David was brought back to the University three years ago, essentially by my colleague Professor Frances Shannon, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research). Frances says that David pulled the Institute of Applied Ecology together as a cohesive group. He did this through his ability to engage with, and listen to, all the diverse voices in the IAE; from the early members to the recently appointed ones. David was always willing to acknowledge a problem, Frances says, and have a sensible conversation about how to solve the issue. I quote from her: When he acted in my role in 2014, my office was full of praise for how he operated and I think they would have been happy for me to be away for longer.
From my own perspective, having David act in Frances’s role helped me see the amazing sides to his character and his capacity. He treated everyone with respect – academic and administrative staff alike – and was admired by them all. David also helped UC engage effectively with external organisations; such as CSIRO and the Invasive Animals CRC, represented here today, and many other universities such as Griffith, Charles Darwin and the University of Melbourne: all of whom I have heard from in the last week or so: all devastated, as are we. I know there are also people here from the University of Sydney and the ANU; perhaps other universities as well. Forgive me if I don’t acknowledge you.
In the last three years, we have attracted extraordinary people to the IAE, including Ross Thompson, whom I thank for what he has steeled himself to do over the last 12 days. I know that David Choquenot’s personal and academic reputation was a key draw-card for this influx of scholarly talent. Ross and his colleagues will realise David’s dream of a truly world class research institute dedicated to the environment.
David cared a lot about the early career academics in the IAE and spent considerable time mentoring them and ensuring they were well-advised about their career and attracting funding. They are here today: and my advice would be to model your behavior on David Choquenot whilst also being true to yourself; as he would have wanted.
David had some spiritual homes on campus. One of them was Zierholz, the pub, where, in addition to numerous informal drinks, he hosted three IAE Conviviums, at which our band, The Hip Replacements, played on each occasion.
Those last times when we played together at the end of 2014 – the IAE Convivium at Zierholz, the Christmas Staff Party at my Residence, and Bruce Lines’ farewell at Zierholz on 14 December – are now indelibly printed in my memory. (Bruce, incidentally, is watching the livestream of this event, from his new role at the University of Adelaide.)
I know I speak for fellow Hip Replacement band members, John Campbell, Stephen Sarre and Michael de Percy: we will always hear David’s backbeat behind us, getting louder as the evening wears on.
Dianne, my heart goes out to you, Kelly and Kirra. I am not sure there is anyone else for whom I would take off my shoes to walk behind over hot tarmac.
Historians say there was some dispute among The Beatles about the order they should walk in; and Abbey Road in London could not have been as hot as the slightly less famous Kirinari Street on campus in December. I was proud, however, to walk behind David Choquenot barefoot.
This image has been my start-up screen for the last year; and now it will stay that way.
Vale David Choquenot, and thank you.
Professor Stephen Parker
14 January 2015