2 December 1998

Distinguished Queenslanders awarded honorary degrees

Internationally-renowned biologist Emeritus Professor John Kerr AO, computer software innovator David Merson, businessman Keith McDonald OBE, photographer and performer William Yang and widely-respected plant physiologist Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser will each receive an honorary degree at the University of Queensland's December graduation ceremonies.

o William Yang graduated from the University with a bachelor of architecture in 1968, but in the 30 years since he has won international acclaim as a photographer, author and performer.

Mr Yang will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters at a ceremony on December 18 at 6.15pm in recognition of his contribution to photography.

He said each of his positions in society - as an Australian-born Chinese, a gay man and a photographer - were marginalised from the mainstream. This perspective had formed the basis of his work and allowed him to be successful, he said.

Mr Yang said he had become a voice for minority groups at a time when prejudices, especially about race, had been given legitimacy.

"These views have become part of the social fabric and this is the cause of some alarm for me," he said.

"At the same time I know these are not the views of all Australians and I take whatever acceptances and encouragements come my way gratefully.

"I think the University of Queensland has been courageous to award me this honour. Australia as a diverse culture must be acknowledged. That I have been accepted and successful to some degree does give me heart, as we all have a hope for a decent, tolerant society."

After graduating from the University of Queensland, Mr Yang moved to Sydney where he began a career as a photographer, chronicling the cultural, gay and social scene. He is now recognised as a leading documenter of modern Australian history. Mr Yang reached the pinnacle of his profession in 1993, receiving the Higashigawa-cho International Photographic Festival Award as International Photographer of the Year.

He is also an author, performer and cultural ambassador for Australia through his photographic exhibitions, and more recently his performances in the image and narration shows Sadness and The North .

While his performance pieces cover Sydney's social life, they are also autobiographical, tracing his heritage as a third-generation, Australian-born Chinese.

o Emeritus Professor John Kerr AO will receive an honorary Doctor of Science at a ceremony on December 4 at 5pm for his national and international contribution to science.

His landmark discovery on apoptosis, or programmed cell death, published in 1972, revolutionised the study of many processes in biology and disease.

Professor Kerr graduated in medicine from the University in 1957. From 1962 to 1964 as a PhD student in London, he first observed the characteristic morphology of a distinctive type of cell death. This was later termed apoptosis when the wide-ranging significance of the process in health and disease was recognised.

He returned to the University in 1965, and was head of the Department of Pathology from 1974 to 1995, during which time he continued his study of apoptosis in a variety of circumstances, among them the death of tumour cells exposed to chemotherapy and immunological attack.

In recent years, molecular biologists have unravelled the processes controlling apoptosis and this is leading to new methods for treating diseases such as cancer and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis.

World-wide interest in the process has grown very rapidly since 1990 and, according to a recent editorial in the journal Science, there have been 20,000 publications on apoptosis in the past five years.

o Chief executive and co-founder of world-leading Australian computer and software company Mincom, David Merson, will receive an honorary Doctor of Engineering at a ceremony on December 7 at 4pm.

Mr Merson, who graduated from the University with a bachelor of engineering (electrical) in 1964 and a Bachelor of Economics in 1969, founded the Brisbane-based company in 1979. His honorary degree will be presented in recognition of his contribution to information technology.

Mincom is Australia's largest exporter of computer software and provides IT products world-wide. It has an annual turnover of more than $118 million and 1050 employees in 14 countries. It's products are used in more than 20 countries and its export achievements have been recognised by Austrade, the Queensland Government, and industry bodies.

Mincom software is used at around 400 sites globally. Last year the company signed a partnership with the US equipment giant Caterpillar.
o Keith McDonald OBE, a leading businessman, community figure and University supporter, will receive an honorary Doctor of Philosophy at a ceremony on December 16 at 6.15pm for his service to business, the University and the community.

Mr McDonald, made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1989, has spent all but two years of his working life with Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd and Queensland Press Ltd.
He started as a finance writer in the Courier-Mail in 1946 before spending two years as an investment advisor and stock broker, then returned as the paper's finance editor in 1950.

He has since held many senior positions in Queensland Press, from company secretary to chief executive and chairman of the board. Mr McDonald is also closely involved in the Wesley Hospital, where he is both a member of the board and a member of the multi-disciplinary ethics committee.

He graduated from the University as a bachelor of commerce with first-class honours in economics and received a University Medal in 1948, was treasurer of Kings College for more than 40 years, has been a member of the Board of Governors of the UQ Foundation and is Chair of the Editorial Board of the University's Graduate Contact magazine.

Distinguished plant physiologist Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser will receive an honorary Doctor of Philosophy at a ceremony on December 14 at 6.15pm in recognition of her contribution to the community and to the University.

Dr Mittelheuser, who graduated from the University in 1968 with a bachelor of science (first-class honours) and a University Medal, was awarded a CSIRO post doctoral fellowship from 1971 to 1976.

After completing her science degree and PhD she was a senior research fellow (1971-76) and acting lecturer in third year cell physiology (1975-76) in the Botany Department.

She has 13 publications in scientific books and journals. Her first publication which was in Nature resulted in world-wide interest and is still referred to in scientific papers.

Dr Mittelheuser has been active in the Lyceum Club Brisbane being a former president and is currently vice-president of the International Association of Lyceum Clubs, a position she has held for the past six years. She is also chair of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society Brisbane and a member of the University of Queensland Alumni Association.

Her sister Dr Margaret Mittelheuser was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Philosophy two years ago for her services to stockbroking, education and the University.

For more information, contact Graduations Officer Karen Welsh (telephone 07 3365 2898)