Two esteemed members of the College of Arts and Social Sciences have received major awards from The Australian National University for their extensive contributions to advancing the academic, intellectual and cultural spheres in Australia and internationally.
Distinguished Professor Amin Saikal received the Peter Baume Award, the University’s highest academic award, while Emeritus Fellow Colin Steele was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Campus Community.
Director and Founder of the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS), Professor Saikal, was honoured for his role in improving Australia’s understanding of the Middle East and Central Asia.
“Professor Saikal’s advice and public commentary are regularly sought by governmental, non-governmental organisations and media, and he was also an advisor to former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser,” the ANU citation said.
Books he has written or edited include The Arab World and Iran: A Turbulent Region in Transition which was launched by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who also wrote its foreword.
Minister Bishop said Professor Saikal and CAIS have provided high-quality work to inform debate on the Middle East for more than 20 years.
She also said collaboration between CAIS and the Australian Government on the challenging and contentious issues of the region was highly regarded.
Professor Saikal has a relationship with numerous leaders from across the region and in 2016 was pivotal in arranging for Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to give a public lecture at the ANU.
Professor Saikal’s most recent solo book, Iran: At the Crossroads, was launched at the United Nations in New York, while in 2017 he was a co-leader of the first Australia-Iran high-level dialogue in more than a decade.
Fellow leader of those talks and former Australian Foreign Minister, ANU Chancellor Professor the Hon. Gareth Evans, presented the award to Professor Saikal at the December graduation ceremony.
“It is an honour to receive the Peter Baume award,” Professor Saikal said.
“I share this recognition with my colleagues in CAIS, CASS and ANU, whose support of me has been instrumental in enabling me to pursue my academic career.
“It is a great privilege to work at ANU and be part of its achievements”.
Colin Steele, who served as ANU Chief Librarian from 1980 to 2002 and Director of Scholarly Information Strategies from 2003 until his retirement in late 2003, says it’s an honour to receive the University’s Outstanding Service award.
“I’ve adopted Barry Jones’ line, who says he’s a disseminator of snippets of information for the public good,” Colin says.
The citation notes Colin’s “distinguished contribution to librarianship in Australia” including the introduction of automation, and the arrival of the Internet, by helping the ANU create Australia’s first university library website.
The author and editor of seven books on history, libraries and scholarly communication is one of the earliest proponents of Open Access to publicly-funded research.
He was also instrumental in founding ANU E-Press in 2002, now ANU Press. In December 2017, the publisher announced it had exceeded two million downloads of its titles – an impressive feat given the Press hit a million downloads in 2016.
In 1986, Colin established the Meet the Author series, and since his retirement in 2003 has worked tirelessly on them, negotiating with publishers to bring some of the best writers in Australia and the world to Canberra.
Over more than 30 years, the series has held about 600 events – most on the ANU campus – and attracted in excess of 120,000 people.
“It’s something I’d do anyway, but I am grateful to the University, and particularly the current and former Deans of the College, for giving me a platform to communicate ideas and bring people together.
“I’m told that the Meet the Author podcast series is among the university’s most popular.”
Alex Sloan, a regular conversationalist at ANU Meet the Author talks and dinners, congratulated Colin on his award.
“You make such a fine contribution to our intellectual life in Canberra,” Alex, the Canberran of the Year and former ABC Radio broadcaster, said.