A retired Sunshine Coast academic has his wife to thank for prompting him to get his second University of Queensland PhD, in a totally different field to the first, at the age of 81.
Dr Jim White completed his most recent PhD within UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, which was conferred in late April 2017.
Dr White will swap his current favourite attire – a sweat shirt emblazoned with “Never underestimate an old man who graduated from the University of Queensland” – with an academic black robe, crimson silk-lined hood, and a black velvet bonnet to be formally recognised at a UQ graduation ceremony at 11am on Friday, 21 July 2017 at the UQ Centre, St Lucia.
“After retiring from all university teaching, I moved to Peregian Beach at the Sunshine Coast,” Dr White said.
“As I did not play golf, my beloved Christine suggested I get involved with an engrossing hobby.
“As I am interested in Queensland history, I soon found that there was a glaring absence of information on the role cotton played in the development and formation of permanent settlements in the Queensland colony and in cotton cities such as Monto and Theodore.”
Dr White built on his earlier academic background in geography for his second PhD.
Originally graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Canada with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography in 1971, Dr White went on to gain a Masters of Arts in Geography in 1973 and a Master of Information Science in 1974 from the same university.
Returning to Australia in 1974, he lectured in computing subjects until 1996 at the Queensland Institute of Technology (now QUT) and in 1985 was awarded the annual honour for outstanding teacher in the QUT Faculty of Computing.
While teaching, he enrolled in a PhD in information technology at the University of Queensland to keep up-to-date with technology for his teaching, and his first PhD was conferred by UQ in February 1985.
Dr White subsequently taught computing subjects at Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus from 1997 to 2001.
The University of Wollongong’s Dr John McQuilton said Dr White’s study filled an academic void and a missing historiographical depiction of Queensland.
“Dr White’s thesis reflected wide reading, solid research and an engagement with theory that could be widely applied,” he said.
“It should ensure that future scholars examining the history of Queensland take into account the fascinating history of cotton growing in the state.”
Cotton growers have shown interest in Dr White’s study at both Queensland and Australian cotton conferences.
Dr White’s future plans include turning his PhD into a book.
He has also discovered another topic to investigate – Japanese settlement in the Northern Territory in 1876-1877.
In his spare time, Dr White plans to enjoy a surf and a walk at Peregian Beach.
“There’s always something going on,” he said.