Business Alumni Update | 2015

Why Professor Rick Sarre donated to UniSA’s Great Hall

Professor Rick Sarre

If there is one thing Professor Rick Sarre has held onto over the course of his academic career, it is the importance of the university experience, which is why he has chosen to donate to UniSA’s Great Hall: to ensure that future students are able to enjoy university as much as he has.

Professor of Law and Criminal Justice at UniSA and President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology, Prof Sarre has taught for 30 years and has won numerous teaching awards. He is currently the Chair of Academic Board at UniSA.

Having studied and taught at five different universities across the world, he values highly his university experiences and relationships, and believes the new Great Hall will bring UniSA into the defining years of the 21st century, by reflecting the university model he experienced in the 70s.

“I’m just delighted by the Great Hall concept – David Lloyd’s vision for creating a central student space is a magnificent one,” he says.

Prof Sarre completed his undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Law at the University of Adelaide in 1976, studying briefly at Graceland University in Iowa, USA. In 1983, he completed a Master of Arts (Criminology) in Toronto, Canada and has a Doctorate of Legal Science from the University of Canberra.

He has also taught overseas twice both in Iowa in 1997 and in Sweden in 2004 at Umeå University, where he recently received an Honorary Doctorate for his collaboration in teaching and research.

“My experience particularly in the US in the 70s was incredible; the university town model where you live on campus, wake up and walk to the gym, to class, to evening entertainment and then back to your residence again – that style of education was so beneficial to me.

“There’s been a debate about whether institutions of higher learning should be places where students gathered, or where students went online to learn – I recognise our online environment is very important for students whose life circumstances and responsibilities prevent them from coming to class.

“But UniSA had to make a judgement about whether we were going to be a ‘brick university’ or a ‘click university’, and the Great Hall I think is indicative that we are recognising that coming to a central space on a daily basis enhances the learning experience immensely.

“I donated because I really admire this institution and I’m right behind the idea of recreating a student space – and I think students are voting with their feet by coming in droves to City West buildings and interacting with UniSA.”

Prof Sarre says he still keeps in contact with the friends he completed his undergraduate studies with, and believes the connections made with others at university are valuable not only to the learning environment but for the rest of a student’s career and life.

“Back in 2007 we had a dinner for the 30th anniversary of our graduation, and 80 people turned up. In those days, the style of education was you stuck together.

“I see the Great Hall providing a focal point where people can say ‘there’s my campus, there’s my library, there’s my recreating’ and where they’ll continue to cross paths with people they’ve formed relationships with.”

Prof Sarre’s wife Debra Sarre, who graduated from UniSA in 2005 with a Bachelor of Psychology, has also donated to the Great Hall, and has chosen her three words to live by: ‘make wise choices’. And while Prof Sarre has not yet decided on his three words, he does have some advice for UniSA’s global alumni community.

“Keep in touch with your university. I’ve been fortunate enough to have connections with five, and I have kept in touch with each of them, with profound dividends.”

UniSA is inviting alumni, staff and supporters to make a donation of AUD$1,000 to embed themselves in the DNA of the Great Hall in one of the permanent sculptural features of the facility.

To learn more, or to donate, please visit

If you're a UniSA staff member please click here to find out more, or to donate.

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