Outstanding achievements celebrated at Murdoch graduations

September 15, 2017

Highest honour: agricultural innovator Neil Ballard was awarded an honorary doctorate from Murdoch University. (L-R) Acting Chancellor Ross Holt, Neil Ballard, Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen.

Hundreds of Murdoch University students celebrated success at two glittering graduation ceremonies this week.

More than 600 graduates are now part of Murdoch’s global alumni family of 60,000 after events at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Forty-five PhD researchers also graduated, celebrating the pinnacle of academic achievement, and reflecting Murdoch’s status as a research-intensive university.

Speaking at the ceremonies, Murdoch Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen congratulated the graduates for their success and hard work.

“You have all developed the ability to think imaginatively, independently and critically, and to uphold our university values of integrity, respect and social justice,” Professor Leinonen said.

“These are great lessons to take with you into the future.

“University education builds many qualities in us, qualities that future employers value and qualities that quite simply enable us to live a good life."

On Thursday evening, an honorary degree was bestowed upon Dr Neil Ballard, of Global Pasture Consultants, for his long support and championing of translational agricultural research, particularly at Murdoch through the Centre for Rhizobium Studies.

Nominated by his long-time collaborator at Murdoch, Professor John Howieson, Dr Ballard has worked in agriculture for more than 50 years and is a well-respected expert in the science of legume domestication and adoption into farming systems.

He has supported the University’s field research, coordinated research partners in regional areas and promoted findings by Murdoch researchers to farming communities. He has even facilitated international collaborations by bringing Murdoch’s research to the attention of several Chinese research institutions.

His and Professor Howieson's shared passion for cricket led to them collecting and shipping cricket equipment to the small South African community in which they researched.

Describing the accolade as a huge honour, Dr Ballard said being able to help farmers and agronomists improve their pastures and businesses, gave him enormous satisfaction.

“It means a huge amount to me to know that someone has appreciated the effort put in over a period of time,” he said.

“In my time of working with legume pastures I have worked with an outstanding collection of pasture researchers and technicians.

“The international work has been a very exciting involvement, working with different cultures and very different conditions.”

Dr Ballard has worked as a consultant to industry bodies such as the Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. He has also worked on international projects in South Africa, Sardinia, Libya and Christmas Island.

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