Bryce Courtenay awarded honorary doctorate

Bryce Courtenay awarded honorary doctorate

Kristyn Comino

2 October 2012: One of Australia’s best-selling authors Bryce Courtenay AM was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra during one of the University's graduation ceremonies on Friday 28 September.

“As a writer may I be excused for using a teenage cliché, the honour is simply awesome! Popular writers or storytellers are not the writers academia usually rewards. If successful their reward comes from their readers in the general population. The honour accorded me by the University of Canberra of an honorary doctorate therefore comes as a complete, unexpected and delightful surprise,” Dr Courtenay said. 

Bryce Courtenay

Honorary doctorate recipient Bryce Courtenay with UC graduates. Photo: Michelle McAulay


Dr Courtenay has sold over 20 million books (10 million in Australia). His success began with his 1989 debut The Power of One, which he wrote aged 55. He has published 20 books including Jessica, The Potato Factory and April Fool’s Day, and his 21st novel, Jack of Diamonds, will be released in November 2012. Dr Courtenay has announced it will be his last book as he is battling gastric cancer.

The 79-year-old began his career in advertising as a junior copywriter and over a period of 30 years became the creative director of three major advertising agencies, McCann Erickson, J.Walter Thompson & George Patterson Bates Advertising.

He said he never lost sight of his true goal to be an author, and advised University graduates to do the same in his occasional address at the graduation ceremony.

“Never lose the dream, but make sure whatever you are required to do before it comes about is going to contribute when your time comes,” Dr Courtenay said.

“My ultimate ambition, one that I never lost, was to be a good storyteller. So I used the ‘bread on the table’ profession of an advertising copywriter to teach me how to write to be read by lots of people.”

Dr Courtenay emphasised to graduates that “life is not about having things – it is about doing things.”

Bryce Courtenay

Bryce Courtenay inspires new graduates during his speech at the UC graduation ceremony. Photo: Michelle McAulay

“If we have chosen to graduate having qualified in something that will make us wealthy, but isn’t essentially where our dream lies, then becoming a happy and self-fulfilling person is going to be difficult. But if we have chosen well, then there is the additional challenge to dare our genius to walk the wildest, unknown way.

“Using our imaginations to the fullest to enhance the things we love to do will always result in successful lives. If what you want to do is simply to make money, well then lots of luck, kids.”

He also had some advice for those pursuing careers in the field of creative arts, including writing.

“Most professions have paths well paved and used, be a good practitioner and all will be well. This does not always apply to the creative process, where you are required by the bean counters and critics to be more than just as competent as the next person. They will require more: more originality, more innovation and more effort.

“But after having said all this, to me anyway, there is no better way to go if you want to lead a happy and interesting life.”

Dr Courtenay was one of four people conferred an honorary doctorate from the University of Canberra at the graduation ceremonies held at Parliament House from 27-28 September.

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