Howard William Peters

1922-1987

A former journalist from the UK, he is considered one of the architects behind the spectacular growth period of WAIT from 1967 to 1975. Howard William Peters possessed a keen intellect, impressive powers of communication and a capacity for work that was to become legendary at WAIT.

He was appointed the first Administrative Secretary in 1967 before taking up the position of Assistant Director of Administration and Finance in 1971. With inaugural Director Dr Haydn Williams, Peters created a powerful administrative operation that placed WAIT among the best managed institutions in the nation and gave the institute an unparalleled credibility among relevant funding agencies.

Peters was seen as something of a ‘quirky genius’ who worked closely with the heads of his administrative sections to establish an international reputation in tertiary educational administration. He was sought after by UNESCO in Paris for systems built around WAIT’s operations, and travelled there in 1974 as a Visiting Fellow.

He was responsible for decentralising administration in 1969, which gave schools greater operating autonomy. Peters also organised finances for vastly improving the quality and resources of the Robertson Library, and was active in establishing two-year associate diploma courses as part of a philosophy of ‘recurrent education’.

For one who lacked formal graduate qualifications, Peters embraced an extremely liberal view of higher education, and his own career epitomised the potential of ‘open tertiary education’, which so attracted his attention in his final years with WAIT.

Peters’ retirement in 1974 closed a significant period in WAIT’s history, where he made unique contributions as an administrator, policy-maker and educational thinker. In Peters, WAIT discovered a very different person from the typical higher education administrator, and Williams found an admirable colleague in shaping a remarkably close working relationship. Sharing gargantuan appetites for work, both could often be seen walking the WAIT grounds at 7am, deep in discussion about the day’s coming issues.

Peters bequeathed to his much-loved Institute of Technology a sophisticated planning and administrative machine that was the envy of many other Australian institutions.

Curtin has recognised his work with the naming of:

  • Howard Peters Wing in the administration building.

Bibliography

  • White, Michael. 1996. WAIT to Curtin: A History of the Western Australian Institute of Technology. Perth: Paradigm Books Curtin University.
  • Hart, Susan. Look Ever Forward: A History of Curtin University 1987–2012. Perth: Curtin University.