Published on 8 April 2013
Maroochydore builder Bill Vaile knew his wife Mary-Ann would be proud to see him graduate at the University of the Sunshine Coast ceremony on 5 April.
The Vailes had reorganised their construction business and their lives around Bill’s commitment to study a Bachelor of Environmental Science to change careers.
But Bill saved the best part until Mary-Ann and his daughter Claudia were seated in the audience of hundreds at the 5pm Graduation Ceremony.
They saw USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Birgit Lohmann announce that Bill was the recipient of the University’s highest honour, the Chancellor’s Medal, as well as a University Medal for his near-perfect grade point average of 6.94 out of 7.
“My wife has been a stalwart for me through the countless hours of full-time work and study,” Bill said.
He is now undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education at USC, studying alongside his daughter, Claudia Vaile, who is also doing postgraduate study at USC.
“The USC degree has allowed me to change careers and do something I’ve wanted to do for so long,” said Bill, whose sister was an award-winning Australian astrophysicist and senior lecturer in physics and whose parents were also university lecturers.
“I’ve always been captivated by the environment and I want to use education to inspire the next generation to understand it and care for it.”
He is looking forward to starting a new job on 15 April, working for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services as a ranger based at Conondale National Park.
The USC Chancellor’s Medal is awarded to a graduating student who has made a distinguished contribution to University life and/or the community, as well as demonstrating high academic achievement.
Professor Lohmann described Bill as enthusiastic and generous.
“He has been involved in the Student Mentor Program and initiated a mentor program for students in the Graduate Diploma in Education,” she said.
“He assisted in the Peer Note–sharing program where, as a mentor, he put in extra time to record electronic text material so that others were not disadvantaged with their studies.
“As a tutor in the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme, Bill was effective in breaking down barriers faced by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff to achieve their goals.
“He has volunteered with Noosa Integrated Catchment Association and Noosa and District Landcare, contributing to the water sampling program.”
Bill said his three passions at USC were mentoring, USC’s Buranga Centre for Indigenous students, and disability services.
“I believe in equity. Everyone should have the right to an education because it is the single greatest factor in improving quality of life,” he said.
Bill, who also now tutors in Earth Surface Processes, Materials and Soils, said he started helping at USC to “give back” after receiving excellent mentoring during his own degree.
Bill and his wife are also involved in providing interest-free financing to small businesses in Asia and Africa.
— Julie Schomberg