Professor Don Watts, WAIT director 1980–1986 and inaugural Vice-Chancellor of Curtin University of Technology, 1987.
Watts brought a variety of skills and interests to his new leadership role at WAIT: a research background in chemistry, senior leadership roles at the University of Western Australia and a keen interest in university governance. A dynamic presence at WAIT, Watts managed the institution successfully through the economic downturn of the early 1980s, building its financial accountability, strengthening its research and development activities and establishing its reputation as an institute of service to the community. A significant and influential figure in Australian education at the time, he helped sweep away the binary system of higher education that afforded universities higher levels of status and government funding than technical institutions. WAIT flourished under his entrepreneurial leadership style and he succeeded in his controversial push for WAIT to achieve university status, leaving shortly afterwards, however, to become inaugural vice-chancellor of Australia’s first private university, Bond University.