BERNIE Curran, one of the most important figures in the history of the University of Newcastle, is being remembered by former colleagues and friends after passing away aged 76.
Dr Curran was a student, teacher, academic, rugby player, mentor, donor, researcher, fundraiser and compassionate friend to many.
The University of Newcastle Rugby Union Club paid tribute to Dr Curran at its home ground on Saturday with a jersey prominently placed on the sidelines and a minute's silence held before play.
It was the rugby club, which is today holding its Old Boys' Day, that posted news of Dr Curran's death on Facebook this morning.
"Bernie's contribution to University of Newcastle rugby was unrivalled, solidified in 2019 when university oval number 1 was officially renamed Bernie Curran Oval. His memory will forever live on as current and future generations [of] university rugby players play on Bernie Curran Oval," the post said.
"Bernie was often found at our home games chatting to our current players and old boys alike. He will be sorely missed by the entire Hunter rugby and university community."
University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Alex Zelinsky informed staff of Dr Curran's passing about midday Saturday.
"Bernie has been an integral part of our University of Newcastle community for more than 50 years; as a student, rugby player, sports leader, academic, mentor, fundraiser, active alumnus, donor, researcher and, most of all, a compassionate friend to many," he said in a statement.
"From a personal perspective, Bernie has been a voice of sage counsel and great kindness since I first came to Newcastle in 2018.
"Generous in his time and robust in his advice when needed, Bernie provided the best possible support to a new Vice-Chancellor.
"Bernie was a great contributor to our university and to the community, and I know that he would have continued to serve for as long as he was able. His untimely passing is a loss for us all."
Dr Zelinsky passed on his "deepest condolences to Bernie's wife Mary, his children Penny, Elizabeth and James, their mother Jeannie, his many grandchildren and all of the broader Curran family".
"Great of heart, mighty of spirit. A friend to many and a champion of the university for all of its days.
"Vale Bernie. You will be deeply missed. Rest in peace."
Dr Curran's contribution to the university spanned more than 40 years.
He failed the first year of his arts degree at University of Newcastle before going on to not only finish the degree, but graduate with first-class honours.
Dr Curran went on to pursue a PhD in Roman religion and politics and hold roles including UON Foundation executive officer, UON Sport deputy chair, lecturer and college warden at country students' favourite Evatt House, which he said was one of the "peaks of my life".
"I was absolutely thrilled," he said.
"It's an affirmation of what you've been doing - and everything I've done has been primarily because I enjoy it so much."
Former colleague Maria Pavela, who worked with Dr Curran at the university, described him as the university's "unofficial vice-chancellor".
"He just had so much breadth with the university," she said.
"He was very giving of himself, with his time, and he always thought of others and put others in front of himself.
"He was such a delightful person. He always made everyone feel very welcome and relaxed. He loved helping people."
Dr Curran was presented with a university alumni award in 2018.
"Bernie worked as a lecturer at The University of Newcastle from 1976 to 2001, teaching classics. During these years he was heavily involved in the culture of the University, and from 1989 to 1996 he established, and was the Foundation Warden for, Evatt House, a residential college for country students," the university said.
"In 1983, he became the University Rugby Club President and held the position for five years.
"He was awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1987, with a University Colour in 1988 in recognition of his exceptional contribution."
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