Ross Steele, an alumnus of the University of Sydney, was conferred as an Honorary Fellow of the University in a ceremony on Tuesday 19 April, presided over by Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson.
“We were delighted to name Ross Steele an Honorary Fellow of the University,” Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Belinda Hutchinson AC, said. “Steele’s eminent history with the University of Sydney spans over 60 years. He has made an outstanding contribution to the study of French culture and the teaching of the French language and applied linguistics, as well as being a generous philanthropist and friend to the University.”
Associate Professor Steele graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts in 1960. As a talented alumnus with a keen aptitude for the French language, Steele has been a proud ambassador of the University’s purpose for education and tradition of academic excellence.
Over the course of his career, Steele has published more than 30 books on the topic of France and has held teaching positions at several prestigious institutions including the Paris-Sorbonne University, the University of New South Wales, Harvard University, and the University of Sydney. It was at the University of Sydney that he was appointed an Associate Professor of French.
Steele’s passion for linguistics and teaching methodology continues to touch the lives of students and scholars who attend the University today. During the 1960s and 1970s, he worked alongside a group of fellow University of Sydney graduates to reinvent the way French was taught at a tertiary level. The group included the late Judith Robinson-Valery and Ross Chambers, and they celebrated the ‘French Revolution’ as a period of pedagogical innovation that holds ongoing relevance to the modern curriculum of the University of Sydney’s nation-leading Department of French Studies.
During his time as a member of staff, Steele helped to establish and lead a variety of academic committees centred around the topic of applied linguistics. In 1976, Steele co-founded the Applied Linguistics Association of Australia and held the position of President until 1993. During this time, Steele was also Vice-President of the International Association of Applied Linguistics for six years followed by Co‑ordinator of Scientific Commissions for a further six years.
He is an internationally renowned author of books on the French culture and teaching the French language.
In recognition of his immense contributions to the space, he was awarded the title of Honorary Associate Professor of the School of Languages of Cultures upon his retirement from the University of Sydney.
As the recipient of the 2008 Sydney Alumni Award for Community Achievement, Steele’s service to the University has also extended beyond the realms of academia. Over the years, he has offered his time and energy as a volunteer to a range of organisations, including at the University of Sydney Alumni Council and the Sydney University Arts Association, where he acted as honorary treasurer.
Steele has represented the University on an international scale by mediating discussions on mutual interests between France and Australia, which earned him multiple prestigious French honours, including the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (awarded 1996) and Officier in the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur in 2008.
He also received the Centenary of Federation Medal from the Australian government in 2003 and was inducted as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2006.
Steele continued to contribute to the University of Sydney. Most recently, following its public opening in November 2020, Steele has offered his time, expertise, and pre-eminent status in the Sydney arts scene to foster links between the Chau Chak Wing Museum and the wider community. His promotion of its collections and encouragement of staff have undoubtedly been factors in the Museum’s rapid success.
Associate Professor Ross Steele is also very well known in Sydney as a patron of the arts, attending many theatre productions over the years and sitting on the board of the Lysicrates Foundation, which supports Sydney playwrights.