Retiring environmental science lecturer Murray Cullen.
Retiring environmental science lecturer Murray Cullen.

Not shy, just retiring

Southern Cross University’s longest serving science staff member, lecturer Murray Cullen, retired recently and can’t wait to get stuck into building a wood-fired pizza oven in his backyard.

“For my 60th birthday I asked everyone to bring a brick instead of a present,” Murray said. “People keep asking what’s happened to their brick… at the moment they’re still in a pile in the backyard.

“I’ve done a few trips to Italy and building my own wood-fired pizza oven is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always been mad keen on food. And fishing. Particularly trout fishing.”

Murray’s colleagues know him well and the special cake his fellow staffers made had a lovely picture of him fishing superimposed over the icing. Murray even brought along four smoked trout that he caught in New Zealand recently for his colleagues to enjoy at his farewell.

Murray started teaching environmental science at Southern Cross University when it was still the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education. He was originally a primary school teacher, then did a stint as a DJ and worked in Aboriginal education, but it seems he has a natural aptitude for teaching and was drawn back to the classroom.

He was the first lecturer at Southern Cross University to receive a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence Award (in 1995) and last year was the winner of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council award.

“I love working with students and watching the way they change over time – one of the great buzzes is when you make contact with a former student and they remember you and your teaching had some impact on them,” he said. “I remember a first year student I had once, I asked her why she decided to move from Melbourne to come to Southern Cross. She’d attended an education expo at Caulfield Raceway two years before and she said, ‘It was what you said that made me come and do the course’.

“I think I’ve managed to get students to learn and have fun doing it.”

Murray will still do some part-time work at SCU overseeing the internship program he helped initiate about 15 years ago with four other staff members. The program has proved extremely successful and Murray believes the eight-week internships have been a key factor in helping environmental science students gain employment.

“Leaving is sad in a way so I’m glad I’m keeping some connection through the internship program,” he said. “But my friends, who are all about my age and have retired, say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done!”


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