Griffith owes much of its success to the outstanding leadership of its former Vice Chancellors Professor John Willett (1972-1984), Professor Roy Webb (1985-2002), Professor Glyn Davis (2002 - 2005) and Professor Ian O'Connor (2005-2018).
As Foundation Vice Chancellor for twelve years, Professor Willett was largely responsible for the development of a new and distinctive Australian university. Professor Webb worked tirelessly over seventeen years to take Griffith from a single-campus institution of 4,000 students through a significant period of change to become a diverse, multi-campus institution of 26,000 students spanning the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor. Professor Davis spent nearly twenty years at Griffith joining as a lecturer in 1985 before becoming Vice Chancellor in 2002. Professor O'Connor provided leadership over a fourteen period during which Griffith developed a comprehensive academic profile and emerged as a research-intensive university - rising to the Top 300 on major world university rankings.
Professor Ian O'Connor AC
PhD , BSocWk
Vice Chancellor 2005 - 2018
Professor Ian O’Connor was appointed Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University in January 2005, taking the helm of one of Australia’s largest and most innovative tertiary institutions. Now home to more than 50,000 students from more than 130 countries, the University is one of the Asia-Pacific region’s most influential universities with research strengths in areas that address the key issues of our time.
Prior to his appointment as Vice Chancellor, Professor O’Connor joined Griffith University as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) in 2002.
Following completion of degrees of Bachelor of Social Work and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Queensland, he held various academic appointments there including Head of the Department of Social Work and Social Policy and President of the Academic Board.
Professor O’Connor is published in the field of juvenile justice, child welfare and the future directions of social work and the human services.
Professor O'Connor has served as a consultant to, or as a member of, various Government and non-Government bodies. He served as Chair of the Advancing Quality in Higher Education Reference Group and as Chair of the Queensland Minister for Education’s taskforce on bullying and violence in schools, the Queensland Schools Alliance Against Violence.
Professor O’Connor is a board member of Open Universities Australia, Trade and Investment Queensland, the Foundation for Australian Studies in China, and the Foundation for Australia-Japan Studies. He is chair of the Higher Education Standards Panel and of the Queensland Art Gallery Board of Trustees, and is a member of the Legacy Advisory Committee for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Professor Glyn Davis
AC BA Hons, PhD, FASSA, FIPAA DUniv
Vice Chancellor 2002 - 2005
Professor Glyn Davis AC became Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University in January 2002. He served until January 2005, when he became Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.
Professor Davis spent nearly twenty years at Griffith, joining as a lecturer in Public Policy in 1985 and before being appointed as a Professor in 1998.
While at Griffith, Professor Davis was awarded the Harkness Fellowship for 1987-1988 to the United States of America and worked at the University of California Berkeley, the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He also undertook secondments to work in the public sector. Professor Davis held senior posts with the Queensland Government as Commissioner for Public Sector Equity with the Public Sector Management Commission (1990-1993), Director-General of the Office of the Cabinet (1995-1996) and Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (1998-2002).
Professor Davis was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 2002 and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia in 2003. The University recognised Professor Davis with the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in 2006, and by renaming the Business 2 Building on the Nathan Campus as the Glyn Davis Building in 2010.
Professor Emeritus L. Roy Webb
AO,BCom Hons, PhD, OMRI, DUniv (GRIFF), HonDLitt (USQ), FASSA, FAIM, FACE
Vice Chancellor 1985 - 2002
When Professor Emeritus L. Roy Webb AO took up his appointment as the second Vice Chancellor of Griffith University on 7 January 1985 few could have guessed the changes and challenges that the Australian higher education sector and Griffith would face.
During his 17 years in office, Professor Webb developed a clear vision for Griffith as a multi-campus University serving the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor and as an institution dedicated to excellence and innovation. At the time of his retirement Professor Webb was the longest serving Vice Chancellor of an Australian university.
Professor Webb was a major driving force in developing and expanding the identity of Griffith University at both a national and an international level. His work to bring Griffith into a new and radical era of education saw Griffith expand its student body, campuses, and program offerings exponentially. As Vice Chancellor, Professor Webb provided many opportunities to improve the research culture at Griffith. During his tenure, over 50 specialised research centres, institutes and units were established as Professor Webb expanded Griffith's educational and research boundaries. His dedication to the improvement of Griffith's international standing produced many of the educational and business links that the University now enjoys.
In 1995 the Government of Italy recognised Professor Webb with a Cavaliere dell' Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiani. The Queensland University of Technology conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of the University and the University of Southern Queensland, an honorary Doctor of Letters.
The University named the Webb Centre at the Queensland College of Art, South Bank in his honour and has conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of the University and the title Professor Emeritus. In recognition of his service to higher education, Professor Webb was made an Officer of the Order of Australia on the Queen's Birthday 2003.
Professor Emeritus F. John Willett
DSC, MA(Hon), LLD, MBA, FAIM DUniv
Vice Chancellor 1972 - 1984
Foundation Vice Chancellor Professor Emeritus F. John Willett DSC was born in the United Kingdom in 1922, Frederick John Willett was to have a remarkable career in the armed forces, in commerce and academia prior to his appointment as the Foundation Vice Chancellor of Griffith University.
As Vice Chancellor, Professor Willett developed the foundations for the new kind of university envisaged by the Interim Council, devoting himself tirelessly to the task of building a university that was alternate and yet complementary to other universities within Brisbane.
The University honoured Professor Willett with the title Professor Emeritus, the honorary degree of Doctor of the University, and later by renaming the Information Services Centre on the Nathan Campus as the Willett Centre.