Jump to Content

Unleashing the Indiana in Len

by Rodney Magazinovic

ENJOYING RETIREMENT: Len Colgan with some of his large collection of bromeliadsLen Colgan would be familiar to many students and staff for his exploits in the school of mathematics for nearly four decades Ė but he is still so much a part of UniSA many wouldnít know he has just retired.

"Iíve always liked adventure," Colgan said.

"I wanted to be Indiana Jones but instead became a mathematician."

Colganís career at UniSA began when he applied for a lecturerís position while still studying postgraduate maths at Flinders University. He spent one year at City East before the mathematics department was moved and he had to start making the long drive out to the newly created Levels campus in 1970.

"For 37 years Iíve been driving 66km to and from work every day. Iíve done nearly three quarters of a million kilometres," he said.

Colganís positions at UniSA have included lecturing, administration and head of school. He was also heavily involved in the structuring of the University leading up to its formation in 1991 and has been program director of the Bachelor of Science (a degree that encompasses most schools and all campuses at UniSA).

And he will be familiar to readers of UniSA News through his monthly crossword, Colganís Cryptic, an interest he developed as an undergraduate at university.

"Iíve done crosswords since I was a student Ė I like to have my brain challenged," he said.

"After a while I became a bit blasŤ about solving the puzzles, so I started creating them."

Another interesting "Colgan" fact is that he collects bromeliads Ė a large family of flowering plants native to the tropical and temperate Americas. Colganís travels in South America fuelled a fascination with the plants and it wasnít long before he became President of the Bromeliad Society of SA, a position he has held for more than 20 years. Colgan estimates his collection numbers 2000 plants, including one named after himself, Tillandsia colganii, which he discovered in a very remote area of the Andes mountains in Bolivia.

In retirement Colgan is looking forward to continuing his travels. A veteran of 83 countries he says his passion for travelling has not diminished.

And while Colgan will be roughing it in such locations as Samarkand in Uzbekistan and Timbuktu in Mali, fans of the cryptic crossword neednít panic Ė even in retirement he will continue to submit his monthly puzzle.