WAIT directors and Curtin Vice-Chancellors

As WAIT directors and Curtin Vice-Chancellors, these esteemed individuals have helped shape the direction of the developing institution.

Head shot of Hayden Williams

Dr Haydn Williams

Inaugural WAIT director, 1967-1979

Western Australia’s former director of technical education was one of the key players in WAIT’s formation. As its first director, he built solid teaching and administrative foundations and led the institution through a dramatic period of growth: WAIT opened with an enrolment of approximately 3,000 students and, by the end of his tenure, this had grown to more than 12,000. With his broad view of technology, which embraced the arts as well as the sciences, Williams quickly established WAIT’s reputation for innovation and for integrity and social inclusion. He is widely recognised for his contribution to the development of education in Western Australia.

Head shot of Don Watts

Professor Don Watts

WAIT director, 1980–1986
Inaugural Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University of Technology, 1986

Watts brought a variety of skills and interests to his new leadership role at WAIT: a research background in chemistry, senior leadership roles at the University of Western Australia and a keen interest in university governance. A dynamic presence at WAIT, Watts managed the institution successfully through the economic downturn of the early 1980s, building its financial accountability, strengthening its research and development activities and establishing its reputation as an institute of service to the community. A significant and influential figure in Australian education at the time, he helped sweep away the binary system of higher education that afforded universities higher levels of status and government funding than technical institutions. WAIT flourished under his entrepreneurial leadership style and he succeeded in his controversial push for WAIT to achieve university status, leaving shortly afterwards, however, to become inaugural vice-chancellor of Australia’s first private university, Bond University.

Head shot of John de Laeter

Professor John de Laeter

Acting Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University of Technology, 1987–1988

As acting Vice-Chancellor, de Laeter brought an impressive international scholarly reputation in physics to the newly established Curtin University of Technology. A senior leader at WAIT, and before that the Perth Technical College, he worked hard to consolidate the organisation’s new position in the wake of its change in status, focusing on the development of its applied research foundations. Following the appointment of John Maloney as the new vice-chancellor, he took on the newly created role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Development and he remained at Curtin until his retirement in 1995. Today, he is recognised as one of the most outstanding academics in the history of the University. His impressive international reputation in the field of science has seen a minor planet named after him.

Head shot of John Maloney

Professor John Maloney

Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University of Technology, 1988–1997

With a background in atomic physics and international research experience exploring the interactions between the biological and physical sciences, Maloney cut short his research work to take up the vice-chancellor’s position at Curtin. Having taken on the leadership role at a time of decreasing federal funding for students, he turned his attention to international horizons, establishing fruitful Asian markets, especially for Curtin’s business courses. He also honed a more strategic research approach, creating the important position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Development and expanding the profile of graduate studies. Under his leadership, the John Curtin Centre building project would take shape, creating an impressive physical heart for the main Perth Campus and important new cultural and historical resources for the community in the form of the John Curtin Gallery and the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library (the nation’s first such prime ministerial library). He would leave, however, just before the Centre opened to take up a senior position at Monash University.

Head shot of Lance Twomey

Professor Lance Twomey AO

Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University of Technology, 1997–2006

As head of Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy and then Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Twomey knew the organisation well. He continued to move the University towards academic excellence when he became vice-chancellor, outlining his vision to make Curtin a ‘world-class university of technology.’ His emphasis on growing an international strategy was a key part of his vision, as was his focus on teaching excellence.  He created two new Deputy Vice-Chancellor positions to cover these key portfolios.  Curtin’s first offshore campus, Sarawak, was also established during his tenure.  Twomey fostered a strong sense of social equity at Curtin, promoting women to higher management positions, promoting the University’s multicultural mix and strongly encouraging access by Aboriginal students and other disadvantaged groups. Under his watch, the landscaping at the main campus was significantly enhanced, providing an enormous sense of pride to staff and students and impressing the University’s many visitors. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1996 for services to education and physiotherapy and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007 for services to higher education. He retired after a decade at the helm.

Head shot of Jeanette Hacket

Professor Jeanette Hacket AM

Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University, 2006–2013

Hacket was the first female vice-chancellor of Curtin University, a legal practitioner with long-term experience at Curtin in both teaching and senior management roles. She is highly regarded for building strong foundations for the University, in a financially challenging higher education landscape and for further consolidating Curtin’s internationalisation strategy (which began when she was Dean of International Programs at Curtin Business School, and continued with her appointment to the position of Pro Vice-Chancellor, International). Hacket was highly supportive of Twomey’s aspirations for Curtin to be a player on the world stage and, under her leadership, Curtin jumped in several international rankings that demonstrated its significant research and teaching achievements. These were elevated, in part, by major initiatives that came to fruition in the Hacket era: the Murchison Widefield Array and Square Kilometre Array; the Resources and Chemistry Precinct; the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute; and the Engineering Pavilion. Hacket embraced the digital revolution in teaching and learning, oversaw planning for the establishment of the Curtin Law School and the Curtin Medical School and championed Curtin’s growth as a knowledge hub and thriving urban precinct through the Greater Curtin development. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012 for service to tertiary education. She retired in 2013.

Head shot of VC Professor Deborah Terry

Professor Deborah Terry AO

Vice-Chancellor, Curtin University, 2014–present

A recognised international scholar in psychology and former Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, Terry is well positioned to lead Curtin on its path of being a globally-focused, research-intensive university. In her first couple of years at Curtin, Terry has shown a commitment to building on Curtin’s strengths and successes, including managing final approvals for the Curtin Medical School, overseeing construction of its state-of-the-art new building at Bentley and planning for the medical school’s outer-suburban presence at Midland. Furthering Curtin’s global agenda, she has developed important new educational partnerships with prestigious international universities such as the University of Aberdeen and overseen the development of Curtin’s new Dubai and Mauritius campuses.  She has also given priority to creating a much stronger presence and profile for Curtin in the Perth CBD to support deeper engagement with the business community. Well-regarded for her consultative leadership style, she is also contributing much to strengthening the University’s values-based culture. In 2019, Professor Terry was elected as Chair of Universities Australia, representing Australia’s higher education sector on the national and international stage. She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in June 2015 for distinguished service to education in the tertiary sector.