Professor Alan Easton has achieved significant academic firsts in his life, the first in his family to attend university and one of the first students to study physical oceanography at Flinders University. In the history of the University, he is also recognised as being the very first student to graduate from Flinders.
With interests in numerical mathematics, fluid dynamics (tides, oil spills and combustion), mathematical ecology and mathematics education, Professor Easton received a scholarship to study physical oceanography at Flinders in 1966, the year the university was established.
In 1967 Professor Easton graduated from a Master of Science (Physical Sciences) before achieving a PhD in Physical Sciences, graduating in 1971. With a focus on oceanography, he produced a thesis titled, The tides of the continent of Australia.
“It was good being at Flinders in the first years as we knew all of the people in the field of Physical Sciences,” Professor Easton reflects. “At Flinders, I grew in confidence. I had the opportunity to do many things such as a field study measuring water levels in the Coorong and collecting tidal data for the Division of National Mapping to set the zero sea level for Australia. I travelled around the coast of Australia looking after tide gauges and calculated the predications for the first Australian National Tide Tables.”
Since graduating from Flinders, Professor Easton’s studies have taken him around the world. First to Canada for a Post-Doctoral fellowship with the Tidal group at the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines and Resources before spending much of his working life teaching mathematics to engineers at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. During this time he also spent six months in America at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the United States Department of Commerce.
Professor Easton’s career culminated at the University of Papua New Guinea as Professor of Mathematics before becoming Pro-Vice Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs. In 2012 he retired and is now living in Melbourne.
“Flinders provided the platform for my career,” says Professor Easton. “I am now retired, having given most of my life teaching mathematics to Engineers, and spend my time making a difference through active involvement in the Uniting Church Social Justice and Mission, Probus and keeping links with Papua New Guinea and West Papua.”
As the very first graduate from Flinders Professor Easton has maintained strong ties with the University, donating to rural scholarships and the library fund along with attending various events, including the Foundation Reunion held for early year graduates during the University’s 50th Anniversary in 2016.
Flinders University graduations have grown significantly since 1967, when Professor Easton was just one of three students to graduate. The University now holds over 18 graduations ceremonies across the year, including annual ceremonies at Flinders partner university in Nankai, China.