Thursday, 12 May 2016

Portraits and Personalities of Townsville: The Visionary George Vivian Roberts

Judy Newman's book on George Roberts.
It was distributed after his death, and includes
the thanksgiving service booklet.
George Vivian Roberts has been described as a visionary and a champion of James Cook University. He passed away in January 2015, a week short of his 100th birthday. Over that long life he served Townsville in the capacity of soldier, senior partner of Roberts, Leu and North Solicitors, long-serving alderman, deputy mayor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University and active board member of Good Shepherd Hospice and the Townsville Turf Club.

To describe him as a ‘significant initiator’ of James Cook University is far from an exaggeration. In fact, his role in founding the university has been described as his greatest legacy not only to Townsville but to the wider north Queensland region. He identified the site for the University and the various blocks that would need to be purchased to guarantee room for future expansion. He was elected the Deputy Chairman of the University College of Townsville at its inaugural meeting in 1961 and continued until his retirement to chair, in some capacity, other Councils and committees of the College, and then University. His firm of Roberts, Leu and North Solicitors were solicitors for the University College, and it was that firm that had designed and presented as a gift the ceremonial crest which became the University’s arms in 1972.

George Roberts Hall, JCU Townsville
In recognition of his fundamental role in the establishment of a tertiary seat of learning, he was awarded the first Honorary Doctor of Letters conferred by the University and the new George Roberts Halls of Residence opened in 2001 were named in his honour. His generosity continues beyond his lifetime in the shape of the George Roberts CBE Bursary and the George Roberts PhD Scholarship for North Queensland. To all his undertakings George Vivian Roberts is said to have brought an understanding that life was “a gift from God’, a gift that he fully used “in so many ways to make this world a better place.” Housed in the Special Collections are the papers relating to George Roberts work as a senior partner of Roberts, Leu and North Solicitors and texts relating to his association with James Cook University, the wider community and the firm of Roberts, Leu and North.

 Frazer, Ian. 2015. “Mourners gather at St James Anglican Cathedral to farewell a pioneer of Townsville.” Townsville Bulletin, January 9.

Newman, Judy. 2014. George Roberts CBE: A Life in Townsville. Townsville, Australia: Judy Newman.

Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui 
JCU PhD History Candidate

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