WA's first female vice-chancellor Fay Gale leaves her job at the University of WA this month having survived everything from former federal treasurer John Dawkins' tertiary revolution to a debilitating illness after being bitten by a nasty North American tick.
The South Australian-born geographer retires on December 19, eight years after she was appointed to head a proposed merger between the Nedlands campus and Murdoch University.
Professor Gale - Australia's second female vice-chancellor and president of the Australia Vice-Chancellors' Committee representing the country's 37 universities - said she had achieved many of the things she set out to do when she left Adelaide in 1989.
"It's been a time of great change, a time when I wondered whether I would make it to the end of my period," she said in an emotional farewell yesterday to a big gathering of "Fay's friends" at UWA.
"It's only really in the last few days as I have started to sort files and realise that I am moving that I have come to tears because I have learned to love WA and UWA."
Professor Gale - who takes up the presidency of the Academy of Social Science in Canberra - said UWA was now an outstanding campus nationally and internationally.
Deputy vice-chancellor Alan Robson said some of her achievements included her influence on staffing and establishment of a promotions and tenure committee to ensure the retention and attraction of top quality staff at UWA.
As a result, the status of women had improved, with the number of female professor jumping from two when she arrived in WA to 16. "She has been an inspirational leader," he said.
She was a vocal critic of former Labor federal treasurer John Dawkins, whose amalgamation drive turned 77 universities into the present 37, and the former federal education minister Amanda Vanstone, whose changes to student fees and university funding have forced many institutions to take a closer look at future funding options.
Behind the scenes, Professor Gale's efforts to guide Australia's universities under the AVCC banner were made more difficult after she was bitten in Canada on AVCC business by the insect which carries Lyme disease.
Professor Gale will be replaced by University of Western Sydney vice- chancellor Deryck Schreuder, who takes up his position in February.