Vale: Nancy Millis, Chancellor 1992 to 2006

Posted on October 2, 2012


Former Chancellor Nancy Millis as many will remember her: an enthusiastic public face and advocate for the University.

La Trobe University has lost one of its most outstanding members – former Chancellor Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis AC – who passed away in late September.

The eminent Australian microbiologist served as Chancellor of the University for 14 years, from 1992 to 2006.

Expressing his sympathy to Professor Millis’ family on behalf of the University community, Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said her list of accomplishments was immense.

During her time as Chancellor she was a familiar figure on La Trobe campuses throughout Victoria, presenting degrees and diplomas to an estimated 30,000 graduates.

When she retired from the role of Chancellor, the University honoured her with the award of the degree Doctor of Science (honoris causa). The award recognised Professor Millis’ outstanding contributions to Australian science and her great service to La Trobe University.

A ‘legend’ in the world of science – she was one of only five Australian scientists recognised on theAustralian Legends’ series of stamps in 2002 – Professor Millis has to her credit a string of more conventional scientific and civic accolades, including election to the Australian Academy of Science, an MBE and a Companion of the Order of Australia.

On her retirement, the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology reported a newly discovered bacterium named Millisa brevis in recognition of Professor Millis’ contribution to water microbiology.

Regional and international growth

Standing ovation for Nancy Millis in 2006, the last La Trobe award conferring ceremony she presided over as Chancellor.

Professor Millis was an active supporter of the expansion of research into new areas and welcomed the large growth in international student enrolments both on and off shore.

She took particular pleasure in the provision and expansion of quality education to regional Victoria, giving communities access to new education opportunities.

A pioneer in biotechnology, Professor Millis’ research in microbial physiology, fermentation technology and waste management established her international reputation as one of Australia’s leading scientists.

She played a key national role as Chairman of the Monitoring Committee for Recombinant DNA during the 1980s and served as Chairman of the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee from 1988 to 2001.

Professor Millis was often seen on campus, meeting staff and students and was active in study and research in her later years. She will be greatly missed by the La Trobe community.

Professor Dewar said the University has recognised Nancy Millis’ significant contribution in many ways – including the annual Millis science lecture series, naming a major research building at the Albury-Wodonga campus after her, and creating a much-used meeting space, the Nancy Millis Room, in the Student Union Building on the Melbourne campus.

Nancy Millis speaking in 2004