Professor Gordon Greenwood
Obituary, inCite v8 no 3, 6 March 1987 p7
Emeritus Professor Gordon Greenwood, CMG, MA, PhD, FAHA, FASSA, distinguished Australian historian and champion of academic libraries, died in Brisbane on 4 November 1986.
Professor Greenwood was born in Sydney on 17 September 1913. Graduating brilliantly from the University of Sydney, he took his PhD from the University of London, attending the London School of Economics in perhaps its greatest days.
He taught history first (1939-41) at New England University College, as it then was, then for five years at the University of Sydney, prior to appointment as McCaughey Professor of History and Political Science at the University of Queensland in 1949. He retired from his chair in 1982.
Gordon Greenwood's impact on the University of Queensland was considerable and both immediate and sustained. Only the second incumbent of the chair since the University's foundation, he virtually re-established the Department, introducing a wide range of new courses and divorcing it from what had been, inevitably, a preoccupation with British and European history, to the almost complete exclusion of more immediately relevant Australian and Asian studies.
Under Prof. Greenwood the History Department developed research and publication programs that were considerably ahead of anything Queensland had previously achieved. This rapidly lifted his school to a leading position in Australia.
Greenwood's concern for libraries was inevitable, first as he struggled to establish the appropriate support for his discipline in those straitened pre-Murray days and later, as Federal funds enabled the transformation of the University of Queensland Library.
However, his support was equally a matter of conviction. As a member of the University Senate for almost the whole of his life in Queensland and as Chairman of the University's Library Committee he was a significant force behind Derek Fielding's successful drive to raise Queensland's status in the Australian academic library community.
Greenwood's most direct influence, however, was on the development of CAE libraries. Appointed to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Colleges of Advanced Education (the so-called Wark Committee), the ancestor of the present Advanced Education Council of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, Greenwood adopted libraries as his portfolio.
He persuaded the Committee to establish a library sub-committee, to which were invited practicing university and college librarians and, with its support, he persuaded the Committee and, ultimately, the Federal Government to make college libraries the focus for special attention in the development of the college system.
Substantial unmatched grants for library purposes were secured in successive triennia, draft standards for college libraries were drawn up and published, college librarians were brought together in the Association of Librarians of Colleges of Advanced Education (ALCAE) and an active program of research and publication was initiated.
From this program flowed the so-called Bryan-Hean Report, Design for Diversity - that landmark in library publication in Australia - Paul McNally's valuable primer on non-book librarianship, the Schaefler report on technical information services for industry and John Balnaves's pioneer MARC workbooks. Greenwood's own massive chapter in Design for Diversity stands as a remarkable example of the ability of a good academic mind to master someone else's discipline. It also stands as a testament to his conviction of the central role of the library in the University.
Professor Greenwood's later years at the University of Queensland were not completely happy and certainly he was disappointed not to become the Vice Chancellor of the University he served so well and so long. It is a tribute to his drive and to his real talent for inspiring and co-ordinating the work of others that it was during this very period of real personal stress that his commitment to the creation of meaningful college libraries we undertaken.
A foundation Fellow of Australia’s two learned non-science academies he was made CMG in 1982. He was the recipient of the Library Association of Australia's Redmond Barry Award in 1984. I know he greatly appreciated both the award and the fact that it was presented at the Biennial Conference in Brisbane.
I am proud to have been Gordon Greenwood's friend for more than 30 years. I count myself privileged to have seen him in operation in his great days and to have worked with him in a great cause.
Link to entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.