Home' InDaily : January 12th 2012 Contents Flinders University and Stephen
Gerlach are both products of the
The University Chancellor was a young lawyer building a career
that would take him to the boardrooms of some of Australia's
most successful companies.
At the same time Flinders was forging a reputation as a bold
and innovative teaching and research institution -- a university
that was prepared to be brave and different.
It's a way of operating that Mr Gerlach is determined to
encourage as the University closes on its 50th anniversary
He's taken over the role from former State Governor Sir Eric
Neal during a period of great change for the tertiary sector.
Universities are facing new challenges that require careful
strategic positioning and good management -- and Mr Gerlach
is highly qualified to contribute.
"I think the cumulative experience over most of my working life
-- while not in the tertiary sector -- has left me well positioned
to deal with the challenges of being Chancellor of Flinders
University," he says.
"Most of my working life I've been involved in organisations
and industry sectors that have been undergoing major
transformation and changes in strategic direction.
"To have a successful organisation -- no matter what area it's
involved in -- you need to strive for excellence in culture, have
good governance in how it's managed, excellent planning across
the board, including strategic, operational, financial, resources
and risk management, and excellence in people."
Mr Gerlach has acquired high level experience in all these areas
during an impressive career that spans multiple sectors. He was
a partner in one of Adelaide's largest law firms, Finlaysons, for
23 years, including six years as Managing Partner before he left
He then moved into corporate consulting roles with different
organisations and on major projects around the world. At the
same time he was invited onto various company boards and
chaired several, including Santos, Elders, Southcorp, Challenger
Listed Investments, Amdel and Penrice.
In recent years Mr Gerlach has reduced his corporate
involvement but continues to use his expertise and business
skills supporting non-profit organisations.
He is currently a Trustee of the Australian Cancer Research
Foundation, Chairman of Foodbank South Australia, a Director
of Foodbank Australia and is a former Chairman of the
Australian Red Cross Society in South Australia.
In all these corporate and community roles, Mr Gerlach has
always taken a big picture perspective, with the future very
much in mind.
And he sees a great future for Flinders -- a time to be bold
and daring -- as the South Australian economy grows with
new mines, defence projects, oil and gas ventures and further
concentration of agriculture.
Strategically Flinders must continue to pursue excellence in
teaching, research and innovation -- these are all critical to its
success -- but its essential reason has to be far more than just
that," he says.
"It must make a real contribution to the community in which
it operates and be a catalyst in the potential development of a
healthy, well-educated and prosperous society.
"And we must be looking beyond our own community to
Australia and internationally and have a broader role in areas
such as freedom of speech and debate, the pursuit of truth, pure
research and the development of individual thinkers."
While Mr Gerlach's outlook is global, he's also very focused on
developing a "healthy heart and soul" for the University which
embraces the staff, students and, equally important, the alumni.
"There's a significant effort being made by the University to
reach out to our alumni and connect with our extended Flinders
family," he says.
"We watch the successes of our graduates with great interest
and pride and want to re-engage them and invite them to be
involved in the University and its endeavours."
Mr Gerlach says this might be in the form of role models or
mentors, in aspects of the University's management or through
financial support for new scholarships and strategic capital
projects over the next five to 10 years.
"Under the current Vice-Chancellor -- and supported by myself
and the Council -- we have taken steps to ensure we continue
to focus on those things which have made the University so
successful," he says.
"Being Chancellor of a significant tertiary institution gives
me an opportunity to make a legacy contribution to both its
present and future in a meaningful way. For me, that's a great
From left: Chancellor Stephen Gerlach (second from right) with Flinders Business Plan competitors Zhan Li, Kaitlyn Bradey and Jayden Smith
bold vision for future
Shaileigh spent the final weeks of 2011 fine-tuning her PhD
thesis on teaching mathematics in primary schools and since
2007 has lectured on curriculum studies at Flinders School of
On many levels, that's an extraordinary achievement.
For a start, Shaileigh was overwhelmed by the concept of maths
in her early schools years and despaired that she would ever
grasp the basics.
But then she's battled amazing odds just to be here. Back in
1985 doctors held next to zero hope that she would live and,
if she did, she would never walk, talk or achieve anything
The miracles started when Shaileigh was conceived -- her
parents Jacqui and Roger were told that was impossible -- and
her brief life should have ended 13 weeks later when her
mother's waters broke.
Jacqui refused to have the foetus aborted and after another 13
weeks of spasmodic labour and haemorrhaging she delivered
Shaileigh -- an 820 gram girl with massive medical problems.
"My parents were told I had a 0.5 per cent chance of survival,"
says Shaileigh. "Because I was so premature my lungs were not
developed, I had a hole in my heart and my left hip was severely
dislocated because the ball and socket hadn't developed."
Then some good news. The day before Shaileigh was due to
have high risk surgery on her heart it was discovered the hole
But she was still on a ventilator because of her lungs and
doctors warned she would probably end up blind because of the
high levels of oxygen she was receiving.
"After 100 days on life support the medical opinion was that my
lungs would never develop and I would be unable to breath on
my own," says Shaileigh. "With no hope left my parents made
the agonising decision that the ventilator should be switched
It was -- and little Shaileigh kept breathing. But her ordeal was
far from over.
She endured 13 operations on her left hip before she was four
years old, including one that nearly took her life.
A full body cast to keep her hip in place was put on too tight.
She turned blue, her lungs collapsed, the hole reappeared in her
heart and her liver was compressed.
"My first four Christmases were spent in hospital before I was
allowed to go home for good and by that time I was old enough
to go straight into kindergarten," says Shaileigh.
Then it was on to primary school where the miracles continued.
Despite the earlier dire predictions, Shaileigh coped with the
academic and physical challenges of school as well as anyone.
She was an enthusiastic basketballer and did well in most
subjects -- except maths.
"In my early years of primary school I really struggled in
mathematics and by the end of most lessons I'd be close to
tears," says Shaileigh.
It was in Year 4 that she received some advice that continues to
shape her life.
"My teacher took me aside and said he could see I was
struggling but that I had huge potential and that I would
succeed if I kept persevering," she says.
The teacher gave her extra support and Shaileigh repaid the
commitment by doing more homework. A similarly supportive
teacher in Year 5 ensured that any barriers to further maths
learning were completely removed.
It was an experience that inspired Shaileigh many years later to
tackle a PhD.
Since completing an honours degree in Bachelor of Education
Junior Primary and Primary at Flinders University she has been
working on a thesis to investigate how teachers can better
engage with students so that they succeed in mathematics. The
focus is on 'powerful positive affect' which involves tapping into
the beliefs, attitudes and emotions of students.
"I want to show that through engagement and persistence
teachers can foster attitudes and beliefs in students that can
lead to mathematical success," she says.
In between writing her thesis Shaileigh has been lecturing in
integrated curriculum studies specialising in mathematics for
junior primary and primary preservice teachers.
Every month you will also find her in the neonatal clinic at
Flinders Medical Centre.
She's part of Women Who Have Been There and delivers a
morale boosting message to young mothers with premature
babies: "Just hang in there -- because miracles really do happen."
Miracle is an over-used word these days, but
Shaileigh Page is living proof that they can happen.
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