FIFTY years ago on November 28, 1973 the University of Newcastle's Great Hall was officially opened by the Governor of NSW Sir Roden Cutler.
In the late 60s and early 70s a 'buy a brick' campaign was launched with a total of $600,000 raised for the building's construction.
The fundraising effort was led by former Newcastle Lord Mayor Frank Purdue and the Newcastle and Hunter region community, generous local industry and business.
One of the first students to walk across the hall's stage was Mrs Gayner Reeves OAM who graduated with a Master of Arts in 1976.
After graduating she became University of Newcastle's Language Centre director and was key in establishing the English language program.
She said throughout her 25 years she advocated for women, contributed to fundraising for the Great Hall in the 70s and attended countless graduation ceremonies.
"I loved being a part of graduations because you really got to know the students, and it was always such a happy day to see them celebrate with their families," she said.
She said it had been wonderful to see the expansion of UON and she was thrilled to see what a difference it has made to the community.
"So many people from Newcastle would not have been able to afford to go to Sydney to study," she said.
"The university gave people the opportunity to still live at home and study, and that's been so wonderful for Newcastle."
Between December 12 and 15, 3500 UON graduates will walk proudly across the Great Hall stage to receive their degrees.
"It will be our largest cohort of graduates ever," Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said.
Mr Zelinsky said the Great Hall demonstrates the value of the relationship between the community and the university.
"The Great Hall was built by our community, for our community," he said.
"I am pleased to be a part of that ongoing commitment to our region, and I look forward to seeing many more graduates cross that stage in the years to come."