The Rt. Hon. Sir Zelman Cowen, 19th Governor-General of Australia, passed away this month. He was a important constitutional law scholar, university administrator and public intellectual. It was through his inspiration that I founded The Journal Jurisprudence.
Sir Zelman's list of accomplishments astound even in the most accomplished circles. He was knighted three times and served as both the Provost of Oriel College and as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. A landmark in any legal career, he reached the top of the profession as a QC and the paramount of academia, having been awarded the very rare substantive degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Oxford.
However impressive Sir Zelman's list of accolades are, it was his strength of being as a person that will be missed by so many, myself included. He was an open, generous person who used his network to bring people together. He became Governor-General in 1977, succeeding the difficult tenure of Sir John Kerr. During his time as Australia's head of state, he helped heal the wounds of the 1975 dismissal and used his warm interpersonal skills to inspire a nation.
In the last two decades of his life, Sir Zelman was afflicted with Parkinson's disease. Although his body became frail, his mind did not suffer. During his retirement, he continued with the work he began long before he became Governor-General. He advanced educational causes, including encouraging a great
many young Australians to push themselves to greater educational opportunities, particularly at Oxford.
He led a life with integrity and upstanding honour. Most of all, he was a patriot who believed strongly in the good of our nation. His leadership inspires many, myself included. Australia and the wider world was better because of this champion of community, understanding and scholarship. The world is a lesser place without him, but I know that Sir Zelman has inspired three generations of Australians who will continue his legacy.
Aron Ping D'Souza
17 December 2011