He made the job seem like a piece of cake. Now the ANU community has gathered to say thanks to Brian Schmidt for eight years of incredible leadership.

From baked treats to stunning Indigenous artwork, tributes from across The Australian National University (ANU) community have flown for outgoing Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt.

Professor Schmidt, who steps down as VC on 31 December, was presented with the painting Dapar: the Universe. A life beyond by Wagadagam and Yuin artist Jesse T Martinat the ANU End of Year Party.

“This story is that of life. Connected, purposeful and loved,” Martin said.

“The story of energy, connection, impact and of man and Dapar/Universe/Heavens/Sky together seeking to understand the very nature of themselves.

“The story is not that of a linear path or of a straight direction of beginning, middle, and end. Rather, this story is one that is eternal and ongoing like the uroboros. “It compromises many stories and it speaks of Brian as a man and his connection to the universe. This is both professionally through his academic work and contribution to science and humanity as well as through his connection and his energy.”

The painting was created by hand with no identical line, object or shape across the canvas. 

“Just as in our universe everything is one and everything is separate, everything is connected and everything is apart, everything is within and everything is without,” Martin said.

Photo: Imagesinstantly
Photo: Imagesinstantly

The stunning painting wasn’t the only incredible sight on display during the University’s End of Year Party. Budding master chefs put their best spoon forward to create delicious tributes to Professor Schmidt as part of the ‘Bake your Brian’ competition.

Entries included representations of Professor Schmidt’s Nobel prize-winning work on the expanding universe, a comic featuring our most famous cosmologist and the VC’s head on the body of the University’s unofficial mascot, Etta the duck.

After a rigorous process – seeing the VC and Chancellor Julie Bishop sample the treats on offer – joint first place was given to Anna Reimondos (for Brian’s life: In cake) and Terry Fear (for Dark Matter goo cake).

And proving cake, if not bread, if for all, the people’s choice award was taken out by Sarena Bunce and Alida Gyory (for their delicacy, Oh Schmidt! That’s Etta this world).

Photo: Imagesinstantly
Photo: Imagesinstantly
Photo: Imagesinstantly

Speaking at the End of Year Party Chancellor Bishop said Professor Schmidt embodied the University’s spirit of “excellence in everything”.

“You are a powerhouse. A rock star to your students and beloved by your staff,” she said.

“It’s not just your Nobel Prize that sets you apart – although you know we all enjoy boasting about that on your behalf.

“Your compassion, your willingness to embrace new ideas and initiatives and your genuine care for the wellbeing of your staff and students have made us all proud to call you our Vice-Chancellor, our colleague and our friend.

“Thank you for leading us through the high highs and very low lows of the last eight years.”

Chancellor Bishop’s glowing words were echoed by Pro Chancellor Naomi Flutter at the VC’s official farewell dinner. Speaking at the event, Flutter said the occasion was “bittersweet”.

“Your connection to ANU – like mine – dates around 30 years,” she said.

“In that time – your passion – I think we can say love – for our university has always been clear.

“Brian, as a university leader and champion for the sector, you leave a terrific legacy – deeply aligned with the university’s purpose, as a truly national asset. 

“For me, though, just as important is how you’ve achieved these outcomes.

“We are better for the ANU values you’ve championed. “So, Brian – from all of us – for what you have achieved and how you have done it – thank you.”

Here’s to you Professor Schmidt! And thanks for eight years of stellar leadership.  

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