Harry F. Heath


Harry Heath brought to the University a wealth of experience in education and a lifetime of experience in the Public Service. He was educated in southern New South Wales and in the University of Sydney where he graduated in both Arts and Economics. For some 28 years he taught in departmental schools – from Deniliquin to Norfolk Island – including the Headmastership of the very large Bankstown Central. Then after a period as President of the New South Wales Teachers’ Federation he became the Education Member of the New South Wales Public Service Board.

He was in the last position when he was appointed to the Council of the University of New South Wales. He immediately began to make a major contribution to Education matters in general and student affairs in particular. He was appointed to the Board of International House about a year after its establishment – 12th July, 1965, to be exact – and he served until his retirement on 9th December, 1982. For the last eleven years of this period he was Chairman of the Board. In recognition of his service to the community in 1973 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. And in 1979 the University awarded him its highest honour – the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

Those are the bare statistics. What they do not and cannot convey is the solid, no-nonsense but genial judgment he brought to debate and administration. When emotions ran high and began to obscure the real issues Harry could be relied upon to bring the discussion back on track. Professor Ratcliffe, who worked with him for the whole period of chairmanship said: “His characteristic approach to any apparent or real problem was – ‘Oh I wouldn’t worry about that’ “. This calm, down-to-earth manner tended to conceal a warm personality with an innate sense of justice and fair treatment.

Harry faced many problems during his chairmanship. Not the least was inflation which meant not only the continual rise in the costs of running the House but also the effect on the design of the extension to the House to embrace 34 new bedrooms and new facilities. The Warden had many ideas for the improvement of facilities and for addressing the shortcomings of the original design of the House, and financing them was a running problem.

But the problems were largely solved, and International House began acquiring the reputation of being well-managed and ‘good value for money’. With the enlarged population, improved amenities and the attractive architectural treatment of the courtyard, Harry Heath’s chairmanship can fairly be described as outstanding.

Harry’s service has been commemorated by the naming of the Harry Heath Music Rooms, and he is to be further honoured by the conferment of Fellowship