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Dick Johnson - Emeritus Professor, classicist and educational philosopher

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CollectionsANU Emeritus Faculty Oral History Project
Title: Dick Johnson - Emeritus Professor, classicist and educational philosopher
Author(s): Johnson, Dick
Stewart, Peter
Keywords: Dick Johnson
Emeritus Faculty
oral history
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : The Australian National University, Emeritus Faculty Inc.,
Dick Johnson joined ANU as Professor of Classics in the Faculty of Arts in 1962. In 1984 he was appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Youth Affairs, in Canberra. In 1989 he returned to ANU as a visiting fellow at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), then joined the Centre for Education and Academic Methods (CEDAM). He retired altogether from the University at the end of 2011. Interview Synopsis: Dick Johnson was born in 1929 in Singapore of Australian parents; his father worked for many years in the insurance industry in Asia. Dick’s parents, though not university educated, held a great respect for learning. In 1936, they moved Dick and one of his brothers (of two, plus a sister) to primary school at Manly’s Christian Brothers College, then on to secondary schooling at the Jesuit Riverview College. From his later school years, Dick’s interests and skills naturally revealed themselves as Greek and Latin, literature and history. In 1946, Dick considered enrolling in a history and English major in Sydney University, but his great facility with Greek and Latin soon took him, abetted by Professor Dale Trendall, into a double honours degree in those subjects and thus into the mainstream of classics. Trendall would become an enduring influence on Dick’s later life and career, continuing for more than thirty years, including Trendall’s time in ANU as Master of University House. In 1950, on Trendall’s initiative, Dick was appointed temporary junior lecturer at Auckland University College, an experience which further confirmed Dick’s commitment to classics scholarship. However he had an earlier ambition, to become a Jesuit priest and scholar and in 1951-52 spent almost two years in the novitiate, but minor medical troubles, related probably to the stress induced by his commitment to that vocation, decided Dick (compassionately aided by his Jesuit superiors) against the priestly life.


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