Tribute to Emeritus Professor W L Morison

Memorial Service 11 April 2000 at Northern Suburbs Crematorium

Colin Phegan Judge, District Court of NSW Emeritus Professor, University of Sydney

Professor Webber has captured the level of excellence achieved by Bill Morison in his career as an academic lawyer. But his achievements do not stop at prominence in academic achievement and intellectual discourse.

Bill had other qualities familiar to those who had the privilege of working closely with him. He set an unparalleled example to his academic colleagues by adhering to values regrettably fast disappearing in universities in the face of relentless commercialisation now taking place.

He had a total commitment to his role as a teacher and scholar. For him there was no chasing after lucrative consultancies and as a consequence he had time for his students and for junior members of staff whose careers he fostered.

He eschewed the glamour and prestige of teaching advanced subjects and post graduate courses, in order to devote a large part of his teaching life to the interests of students in first year through his courses in torts and later in legal institutions.

But my personal debt to Bill Morison runs deeper than his model of academic values. I am sorry to say that my recollections of our exploits on the cricket field are not as acute of those of Donald Morison, but I share his description of us as "collaborators".

In the academic context our collaboration began soon after my undergraduate days. By the end of my Bachelor of Laws degree in 1965, I had already spent three years as an articled law clerk and over that time had become disillusioned with working in a large firm promoting the interests of multinational oil companies and large corporations. After another twelve months as a solicitor, following my admission, I was offered a position as a research assistant at Sydney Law School with Bill Morison. From that time I never looked back. I benefited from his personal encouragement to undertake post graduate Research, his support of my application for my first teaching job in Torts for the Solicitors and Barristers Admission Board course, as it was then called, and his subsequent invitation to join him as co-author of his widely used and highly organised Torts Case Book.

Working so closely with him not only fostered my academic career but also introduced me to a more personal side. I offer just one example. While I was working as his research assistant, he arranged for me to attend a weekend torts conference organised at the Research School of the Australian National University. As another example of Bill's efforts to enhance my academic development, it provided an opportunity to make direct contact with the most prominent scholars in the torts field from all over Australia. Bill, as many of you may know, did not drive. He therefore came with us in our car to Canberra. As we were driving along, during one quiet moment, Bill leant forward from the back seat, perhaps after reminiscing about the weekend with his family whom he had left behind, and said, "What I like doing is making pizza on a Sunday morning."

That is the Bill Morison I will remember: role model, mentor, and a man who liked making pizza on a Sunday morning.

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