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UNSW Pioneers history

Our University is proud to celebrate two decades of the UNSW Pioneers!  

The Pioneers initiative was the brainchild of Neville Whiffen (MSc ’56), who was closely associated with the creation of UNSW, and originally secured our Kensington site. The purpose of the Pioneers was to acknowledge and celebrate the trailblazing efforts of those early alumni who were fundamental to laying the foundation for making UNSW the great university it is today.  

The first Pioneers events 

In 1998, the then-Office of Public Affairs and Development organised a “Back to UNSW Day” for alumni. As part of those celebrations, the Vice-Chancellor of the day, Scientia Professor John Niland AO, along with the President of the UNSW Alumni Association, Dr Jessica Milner Davis, invited graduates and staff from the 1950s and 1960s to attend the very first UNSW Pioneers Luncheon. This event was attended by more than 200 alumni and featured a special address from His Excellency, The Honorable Gordon Samuels AC, Governor of NSW at the time.  

In the following year, the Governor hosted The UNSW Pioneers Literary Luncheon, to celebrate the release of Patrick O’Farrell’s book, UNSW: A Portrait. The luncheon was one element of a major celebration of the 50th Anniversary of UNSW, and also marked the affiliation now formally known as the UNSW Pioneers.  Since its official inauguration in 1999, UNSW Pioneers has hosted regular luncheons every year with distinguished guest speakers invited to present on contemporary issues of widespread appeal.  

Recent developments 

As President of the Pioneers, Keith Bowling first arranged the annual luncheons; then in late 2017, after more than 15 years, Keith stepped down as President, handing the presidential baton to Therese Delanty, who has continued this rich tradition. The luncheons are now coordinated through UNSW Alumni and Engagement in collaboration with the Pioneers’ Executive team.  

In 2018, in order to maintain and grow the Pioneers, the eligibility requirements for membership was extended to any UNSW alumni who graduated prior to 1985. We look forward to welcoming new members to this esteemed group, and to continue to spark the imagination and further their lifelong learning journey. 

Contact us 

If you have any questions or would like to attend the next Pioneers lunch, please contact