Number 13

Reverend Professor Rodney Wolff, Warden

Photo: Archbishop Phillip Aspinall with the Warden (to his left); the Chair of Council, Dr Douglas Porter (to his right); Honorary Fellows in chocolate and gold stoles (L-R: Senator the Hon George Brandis, the Hon Joan Sheldon, Emeritus Professor Sam Mellick); and clergy of the Diocese of Brisbane.

Counting the Reverend William Stevenson only once, who had two separate stints as Warden (1920-26 and 1936-38), it seems that your correspondent is the XIII Warden of St John’s. What ominous element of luck – good, bad, or otherwise – can one read into that rather interesting number?

As a mathematician, to me, all numbers are interesting, and not just 13: 1 is interesting because it is neither prime nor composite; 2 is interesting because it is the only even prime number; 3, because it is the first odd prime. And if we were to suppose that some number N was the smallest uninteresting number, then it would be interesting, because it was the first uninteresting number. And hence there can be no first uninteresting number, and thus all numbers are interesting.

But I digress. I’ve had a number of experiences at St John’s – as a resident academic in the mid-1990s; as an ordinand under the tutelage of Warden John Morgan just before his retirement; and now for almost one year, in the first instance as Vice Warden and Chaplain.

While we can point to much in life which happens on account of luck, serendipity, coincidence, or whatever, my experience of St John’s is that what makes the College great is intentionality. Of course, it might have been pure luck that one chose to apply for admission to St John’s rather than another college. It might have been pure luck that one happened to be in the right/wrong place or in the right/wrong company and consequently got propelled into a College leadership position, or made a treasured life-long friend, or had a distinctively formative experience at College. From what I have witnessed, however, it is the intentional commitment to the College and the embrace of the College spirit which has given – and continues to give – its residents an experience at St John’s which is valuable and valued.

This year, I have been interviewing first year students throughout the semester, to stay in touch with their academic progress and day-to-day issues in College. To a person, they describe life here as fantastic. It is because they channel their energy into deliberate acts of engagement in the social, cultural, spiritual, and sporting life of the College. I do hope Old Johnians have similar recollections, and that friends of the College can appreciate the source of enthusiasm.

I’ve no doubt that the walls of the College have soaked up that sense of strong community, celebration, and friendship. Returning to such places can be wonderful ways to relive the feeling. You are always welcome to visit the College, so please do. I intend, in Semester 2, to have designated Formal Dinners for alumni and friends of the College, and it will be terrific for the students to be able to meet you in that forum. When we publish dates, please plan to come … don’t leave it to luck!


Rodney Wolff, Warden St John's College Image

Rodney Wolff has recently been appointed Warden of St John’s College after acting in the role since 1 December 2016. His previous church appointment was as Associate Priest at St Augustine’s, Hamilton. For the past 25 years he has held academic posts at The University of Queensland, QUT, and the University of Glasgow, as well as Visiting Research Fellowships at Balliol College, Oxford, and Jesus College, Oxford. His work as an academic statistician has embraced theory and applications in risk, mine planning, financial econometrics, public health, and complex systems. Having left academic work in 2016 for full time service in the diocese, he continues as an Honorary Professor in the School of Mathematics and Physics at The University of Queensland, in the same School from which he obtained his BSc. He has a DPhil from Oxford. He was recently elected as Fellow of the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences. His passion is musical theatre, as an actor, director, conductor, and groupie.


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