Their university experiences are bound by family ties. But when Chris Biggs sat down with his grandfather John, he discovered just how much UQ has changed in 60 years.
Despite commencing their studies more than 60 years apart, John and Chris Biggs’s experiences as students at the St Lucia campus nevertheless have parallels.
John (Bachelor of Arts ’58, Bachelor of Laws ’58) and his grandson Chris (a current student) both chose to study degrees in Arts and Law, are both avid sports fans who have represented the University in cricket and tennis, and have both spent a fair amount of time at the Regatta Hotel.
Of course, some things have changed since John’s day.
While Chris and about 50,000 other students at the St Lucia campus have a smorgasbord of food options to choose from, including sushi, Vietnamese, burgers and burritos, John recalls there was only one place to buy food on campus during the 1950s – a “rough” refectory run by Joe Malley.
“He (Malley) would have a partition, and on one side was wait service at the tables, and on the other there was a sort of bistro where you took your food and sat down,” John said.
“The amusing part was that there was exactly the same food on either side.”
Transport and parking at the University have also changed. While Chris describes his 15-minute commute from Yeronga via public transport as “super easy”, he is envious of how easy it was for his grandfather to find a car park on campus.
“The other day it took me 50 minutes to find a park and I missed my tutorial,” Chris said.
John was happy to point out that he never experienced those challenges.
“I used to park right opposite the law entrance of the (now) Forgan Smith building, all day, for free,” John said.
While John never felt the frustration of driving around trying to find a park, he said he had to make do with typed lecture notes copied on a wet press and long waits for overdue books to be returned to the library. Chris, on the other hand, makes good use of the technologies now available.
“Although I generally attend lectures, when I’m revising for my final exams I’ll often relisten to lecture recordings where my notes are a bit weak or it’s a topic I don’t really understand.”
Technology aside, John said he believed the biggest difference between his and his grandson’s time at UQ is what happens after you graduate.
“In my day, once you got a degree, you were assured of a job,” John recalled.
“I think it’s different today due to the number of students who are putting themselves through.”
John’s career path was perhaps more certain than most. Having already worked as an articled clerk in the law firm his grandfather established at the turn of the century, he joined his father and brother-in-law as a partner a couple of years after graduation, and continued to work in the family business until he retired in the 1990s.
Chris said he was still considering his options, but would love to pursue a career that combined both his Law degree and sports studies major in his Arts degree.
“As someone who has always lived and breathed sport, I’m finding it really interesting to read from an academic perspective how important sport is in Australia and around the world,” he said.
“For instance, in one of the subjects I’m studying this semester, we looked at how the United Nations is using sport to promote peace and development around the world.
“That’s something I would be very interested in doing.”
Chris’s love of sport may well be something he inherited from his grandfather, who is a life member of The University of Queensland Cricket Club (UQCC) and spent two decades of his retirement compiling UQCC newspaper clippings and scorecards dating back to 1912.
John’s scrapbooks have now been digitally scanned by the UQ Library, providing a complete digital catalogue of the club’s 100-year history.
A proud and passionate alumnus, John said he hopes Chris will back on his time at UQ as fondly as he does.
“We had a joyous time at university,” he said.
“They were the best years of my life.”