1994 - 1998
Professor Barry Conyngham was the first Vice Chancellor of Southern Cross University, following its establishment on 1 January 1994.
It was clear that the creation of a new university had much support from the local community, however the establishment of a fully independent university for the North Coast presented challenges. The community brought its own values and expectations-from its distinctive mix of people, traditional, alternative and Indigenous. A continuing theme then was how to balance creativity with responsibility.
Professor Conyngham expressed tremendous pride in the success of the first year. He claimed it was only made possible due to the commitment and professionalism of the staff, especially as much of what was achieved involved structural and procedural changes.
Notable changes included the establishment of the first Council, with oversight of direction and accountability. The first graduation ceremonies were held in April and October. One demonstration of the broad support for the new University is the list of speakers for the first ceremonies: Dr Ken Boston (NSW Director General of Education); James Strong (chairman of Qantas); and Professors Fred Hilman and John Niland (University of New South Wales). James Strong and Professor Niland attended Lismore High School, and Professor Fred Hilman grew up in the Tweed River area.
In 1995 the first Chancellor, The Hon Andrew Rogers QC, was installed by the Governor of New South Wales. At this ceremony the University of New England presented a ceremonial Mace as a gift to the new university, indicating the older institution's continuing support and interest in the region. The Mace was designed and made by local master craftsman and Churchill Fellow Mr Geoffrey Hannah.
Following the aim to serve this region, 1996 marked bold steps in infrastructure development. The move to the Coffs Harbour Education Campus, a shared facility with the Coffs Harbour Senior College and North Coast TAFE, was a major achievement. Soon after was the first graduation on that campus, with its own distinctive local character. On 17 May 1996, the smaller Port Macquarie centre was officially opened. In Lismore, there were two major capital developments on the campus-the Nursing and Naturopathy Building and the new Law School Building, were officially opened by the Governor-General Sire William Deane and Lady Deane.
Boldly pursuing innovative areas, the Naturopathy Clinic was opened in 1998 as part of the progress of the Natural and Complementary Medicine programs. This was the first of its kind to be established by an Australian university.
The University's long commitment to Indigenous people and related studies was continued with the implementation of new courses and further interaction with the region's Elders. Academics and students of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples participated in a number of significant conferences and events here and overseas.