1990s-2000s: Expanding into the millennium

The 1990s were another period of expansion and accessibility for Emmanuel and its student body. The digital revolution in education was in progress and computers became part of everyday life. The College was connected to the Internet and the wonders of the World Wide Web. Campus improvements included three new wings, sound-proofed music rooms, and a new main entry on Sir William MacGregor Drive that presented the globe-topped gates, crest of sandstone and main building tower to all-comers.

Emmanuel’s main entry

Australian Governor-General Bill Hayden AC officiated at the opening of Drewe, Edmonds and McGregor wings in 1993. The new wings were named for Council Chair 1974-95 Dr John Drewe, Principal Angus Edmonds, and the College’s first solicitor John George McGregor. McGregor had been instrumental in the establishment of Emmanuel College. As well as drawing up the original Constitution and organising for the Letters Patent to establish Emmanuel College as a corporate entity in 1911, he arranged and paid for the Grant of Arms (the coat of arms design or ensigns armorial, commonly referred to as a crest) to the College from Lord Lyon, King of Arms, Scotland, in May 1912.

The new wings had a mix of single bedrooms, two- four- and five-bedroom flats, and accommodation designed for people with disabilities. As well as catering to student and postgraduate demand for residence, the new wings enabled further growth in Emmanuel’s conference and meeting business. The income generated from venue hire and catering for academic and professional conferences was reinvested in the College to improve facilities and augment the bursary fund for the benefit of students.

McGregor wing, one of three new residential wings built in 1993

Another significant project of the 1990s was the design and installation of stained-glass windows in the Emmanuel College chapel. Inspired by the College’s motto “Let there be light”, the Fiat Lux window was installed in 1996, followed by the Emmanuel window in 1997. The chapel windows project was supported by philanthropic donations from the Emmanuel community, including from students donating through the Emmanuel College Students’ Club. The following two years saw the installation of the university windows and the associated institutions windows to complete the project.

The six-by-five-metre Fiat Lux window on the south-east side of the chapel depicts the creative light of God permeating through all aspects of College life — academic, cultural and sporting. Symbols of Christianity — such as fish, bread, wine and angels — and of the Presbyterian and Uniting Churches feature.

The chapel’s Fiat Lux window

Across the sanctuary is the twelve-panel Emmanuel window. Set in three circles, the imagery focuses on the meaning of Emmanuel — “God with us” — and on the founding and history of the College.

Panels of the chapel’s Emmanuel window

By the mid-90s, Emmanuel’s student body had risen to 330, an increase of around 100 residents within twenty years. While, as now, the majority of students were studying at UQ, a number of Emmanuel’s residents attended Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University. Griffith Uni had opened in 1975 and Emmanuel accepted the first student from that institution in 1976. Queensland University of Technology became a university in 1989 and that year Emmanuel had eight QUT students. By 1999 the number of QUT students had increased to seventeen. Emmanuel’s association with QUT actually extends back decades. In 1954 a student attending the Queensland Teachers College, a predecessor of QUT, was in residence at Wickham Terrace. Regardless of where Emmanuel’s students study, they are all Blue Dogs, a nickname adopted in 1989 and embraced thoroughly from the 1990s onwards. The current mix of Blue Dogs is UQ 82%, QUT 16% and Griffith 2%.

Blue Dog and Blue Doggies

International students continued to make an important contribution to College life. In 1994 there were 36 “overseas students”, which included many American students on exchange in first semester. Reflecting Emmanuel’s commitment to diversity, the position of International Student Coordinator was established in 1997. Second-year student Anousha Victoire was appointed to make international students welcome and to organise cultural interchange events. This officeholder position within the ECSC continues, ensuring international students feel at home at Emmanuel and enjoy social activities — such as Aussie barbies and daytrips in and around Brisbane — that foster cultural exchange, connections across the globe and lifelong friendships.

Hitomi Obayashi, an exchange student from Kitakyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, lived in McGregor wing at Emmanuel in 2001 while studying linguistics and education at UQ. In 2019, now Hitomi Harada (pictured below left, holding the jersey) and married and with five sons, she organised a reunion in Osaka with Emmanuel friends from the USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia:

“The Emmanuel flag surely strengthened bonds among us. We all felt so honoured to be Emmanuel alumni. Time we spent at Emmanuel was surely the happiest days in our lives!”

A reunion of Emmanuel students from around the globe in Osaka in 2019 and the group at College in 2001

Emmanuel’s Scottish connections have been woven into the College’s fabric since 1911. Emmanuel was founded on the educational traditions of the Scots and the Presbyterian Church. Four of the College’s ten principals to date have been Scottish, including the first, Reverend John Meiklejohn. Emmanuel’s Scottish heritage was on display with pipers performing at the opening ceremony on Wickham Terrace in May 1912, as seen in The Brisbane Courier photo.

Official opening of Emmanuel College in May 1912 with pipers, at left

The College’s Scottish character was amplified (literally) in 1998 with the establishment of a pipe band at Emmanuel. Andrew McCabe was a postgraduate student studying law at UQ when approached by Principal Angus Edmonds. “Angus and I met while I was tutoring a different band, but he sounded out whether I’d be keen to join Emmanuel and start a pipe band. The idea was to draw in the pipers and drummers who were already residents, offer tuition to other residents, recruit students through market days and other campus events, and keep that Scottish piping tradition alive.” Andrew set up a stall at the 1998 UQ Orientation Market Day and “by the afternoon’s end, we had 67 students signed up as interested in joining or supporting an Emmanuel College University of Queensland Pipe Band”.

University of Queensland Pipe Band at Emmanuel College at Founders’ Day in 1998 with Pipe Major Andrew McCabe in the back row, far left

From a handful of student players in 1998, Emmanuel’s pipe band went from strength to strength and accolades followed. In 2016 the band merged with the Queensland Highlanders to become the Emmanuel College Highlanders at the University of Queensland. Since their promotion in 2018 to Grade 2, the highest pipe band grade represented in Australia, the Emmanuel College Highlanders have achieved amazing competition success and won the Queensland Pipe Band Championships multiple times. The band continues to entertain through performances at festivals, parades and community events. St Patrick’s Day, Anzac Day and playouts for St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, sponsors of the band for a number of years, are just some of the highlights. We are proud and privileged that one of the premier performance and competition bands in Australia calls Emmanuel home.

Emmanuel College Highlanders performing at the Maclean Highland Gathering in 2019 with Pipe Major Jason Palfrey at front left

The year 2000 began with celebrating the new millennium, relief that Y2K bug fears were unfounded, and eager anticipation of Australia hosting the summer Olympics in September.

Though a long way from the venues down south, Emmanuel joined in the Olympics excitement. In the afternoon of 14 June, the Olympic Torch Relay came through UQ and down Sir William MacGregor Drive. Thousands of students and staff from the colleges and UQ lined the streets to cheer on the torch bearers. Peter Vance, a Brisbane musician with a visual impairment, carried the torch past the College. The torch’s 100-day relay across the country culminated in Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron at the 2000 Olympic Games opening ceremony in Sydney on 15 September.

The Olympic Torch Relay comes to Emmanuel

September 2000 also saw Emmanuel assist a group of elite sportspeople with their Olympic dream. During the mid-semester break, the College hosted 100 track and field athletes and officials from Poland and the Czech Republic for their pre-Olympic training camp. No doubt Emmanuel’s gold standard accommodation and catering contributed to their success — these short-term residents won five gold medals at the Games. With Brisbane set to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032, more exciting times are ahead for the River City.

Polish and Czech Olympians residing at Emmanuel

In 2006 a new event was added to the College calendar to encourage connections to the legal fraternity and the judiciary for the benefit of Emmanuel’s law students. An initiative of Principal Dr Stewart Gill whose tenure at Emmanuel commenced in 2005, the Sir Harry Gibbs Law Dinner honours an outstanding Emmanuel alumnus and Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia and also raises funds for his namesake scholarship. The guest speaker at the inaugural dinner was The Honourable Mr Justice Bruce McPherson CBE, Judge of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, on the topic of Why Have Law At All? Many distinguished legal minds have participated over the years, and their speeches are collected in the Emmanuel Papers. This series of academic papers features topics of broad interest in areas of law, education, history, politics, science and religion.

Sir Harry Gibbs GCMG AC KBE QC – portrait in Supreme Court Library Queensland collection

Emmanuel’s scholarship and bursary program had been established in the 1990s with the main focus of supporting students from regional and remote Australia. As philanthropic activity increased in the 2000s and as more students with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds undertook university study, Emmanuel’s scholarship and bursary program expanded to support Indigenous students.

The College’s Indigenous Scholarship program was established in 2008, the year that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, particularly to the Stolen Generations for the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families. Within two years, donations from alumni and the Emmanuel community were supporting eleven Indigenous students to live at Emmanuel while pursuing their university degrees.

The College’s scholarship and bursary program helps our Indigenous students achieve their goals

Emmanuel’s Indigenous students have excelled in all areas of College life — leadership, academic, sport, cultural, community service — and many have achieved a great deal within only a few years of graduating. Jordan Cory was Community Service Coordinator while resident at Emmanuel from 2011 to 2014. Now a medical doctor and leader in Indigenous health and gender equity, Jordan received a Distinguished Young Alumni Award from UQ in 2019. We celebrate the achievements, leadership and strength of the First Australians.

UQ Chancellor Peter Varghese AO and Dr Jordan Cory at the 2019 Courting the Greats awards ceremony (courtesy Bobby Rein Photography)