Long-serving academic Nicholas Standish recognised for contribution to UOW

When the University of Belgrade bestowed an Emeritus Professorship on Professor Nicholas Standish’s grandfather, a professor of mathematics, the local council in the Serbian capital decided to name a street after him.

On Wednesday (18 July) morning, Professor Standish received the same honour – an Emeritus Professorship – from the University of Wollongong (UOW), and he told the crowd, with a laugh, that he hoped his own street wasn’t too far behind.

Professor Standish was honoured for his contributions to UOW, which he joined more than five decades ago during its formative days as a college. A world-renowned engineer and metallurgist, Professor Standish is a pioneer who drove the research of materials processing and the teaching of engineering at UOW.

Now, in his ninth decade, Professor Standish’s life story could be torn from the pages of a novel. Indeed, he penned a fascinating memoir, Survival and Success: The True Story of a Luftwaffenhelfer, published last year, which detailed his journey from a young boy in Yugoslavia to a migrant in Australia to a prominent academic.

Professor Standish was forced to flee Yugoslavia as boy, and in 1944, at the age of 12, he was conscripted into the German Air Force as a Cadet. As a Luftwaffenhelfer, he gained a reputation for being a troublemaker and was accused of sabotage.

It was a harrowing time for Professor Standish and his family, and he reflects that he had so many near misses that he doesn’t know how he made it out alive.

The end of World War II saw Professor Standish in Salzburg, Austria, before moving through displaced persons camps in Europe. He migrated to Australia in 1949, where he enjoyed his first proper meal in many years.

He received a Diploma at Sydney Technical College, before undergoing his Bachelor of Science at the University of New South Wales. It took nine years, part-time, and as Professor Standish told the graduation audience, it was a year longer than expected after he failed the first year for not speaking English. That was followed by his Master of Science, and a PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1965.

Since joining UOW as an academic, Professor Standish has overseen more than 55 post-graduate research students and published more than 120 papers.

His career was founded on innovation in blast furnace aerodynamics. He pioneered the technology at UOW in 1975, and it has a considerable impact on industry around the world.

Professor Standish has also been instrumental in establishing offshore programs at UOW, most notably the Krakatau Steel project, a collaboration with PT Krakatau Steel and the Universitas Tirtayasa in Cileon, Indonesia. He spent many years travelling back and forth between Indonesia and Australia.

Now based in Dubbo, Professor Standish said it was an honour to receive an Emeritus Professorship and he was incredibly proud of his achievements at UOW.

“I can honestly say that being part of the University of Wollongong since its early formative years was the best thing that happened to me. I remember how I could not wait for a day to start so I can go to University to do my work,” he said.

“As my future is actually already here I can report that most of the goals I set for my life have been achieved.

“As a private person I have been a good citizen throughout and as a professional engineer and teacher I have always followed the highest professional standards.”


Originally published in UOW Newsroom. Words by India Glyde.