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My most significant undergraduate experiences arose entirely by chance! Initially, I enrolled in Arts, anticipating an honours geography degree and a career as a high school teacher. In addition to geography, my first year consisted of meteorology and economic history. The latter two proved to be crucial – to my career and to my life.
In 1952, Edinburgh was the only university in the Commonwealth to offer undergraduate meteorology. James Paton, who taught most of the course, was inspirational, engendering in particular my life-long fascination with clouds. Midway through the year I resolved to switch to an MA BSc double-degree course, leading to an honours degree in physics. This led, via a PhD, to an academic career, concluding as Dean of Science at Queensland University of Technology.
At my first economic history lecture, I spotted Rex Holroyd. He’d been two years ahead of me at school, but his was the only face that I recognised – so I sat beside him. Rex had completed two years’ National Service in the RAF and, to fulfil his part-time commitment, he’d joined the University Air Squadron. By early in second term, Rex had convinced me to quit the Officers’ Training Corps and join the Air Squadron.
Being six months behind, I had my first Chipmunk flight during Easter camp at Scone. When I left the Squadron mid-1958, I’d logged over 450 hours (65 in Harvards) and, benefiting from hours of instruction from ex-Pathfinder and flying perfectionist Jim Billing, DFC, was awarded what I believe was the first instrument rating gained by an EUAS student.
As well as learning to fly and acquiring an enduring interest in aviation-related matters, my five years in the Squadron were central to my personal and social development – much more so than my six years of course-related experiences. Soon after graduation I’d lost contact with everyone in my honours group, but I maintain meaningful communication with close to a dozen former EUAS colleagues. I hope that the reunion may increase that number.
Ron Gardiner from 1952
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