26th November 2018

It was one of the greatest honours of my life – on 26th November 2018 I was awarded Life Membership of The Geographical Society of New South Wales. It's an embarrassingly long read, but this is the citation that was read by Professor Phil McManus, Vice-President:

In accordance with our Constitution, the Council may, in special circumstances, accord Life Membership to a member or benefactor who has provided exceptional support to the Society. Dr. Stephen Codrington is a very worthy recipient of Life Membership of the Geographical Society of NSW given his exceptional support and leadership over many years, but this is only part of the story. Stephen’s international achievements and his commitment to geographical education align with the Society's mission to advance geography in New South Wales and throughout Australia, to promote, support and, when necessary, defend geographical research, scholarship and education and to expand geographical literacy.

Echoing Aristotle, on his website Stephen advocates that “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. Stephen is in the habit of excellence. This habit is demonstrated in many spheres. Let’s begin with his emphasis on internationalism. Stephen has travelled to 157 countries in the world, but expect this number to rise in coming years. Just in case you think he is passing through each country once, Stephen has undertaken at least 80 visits to China since 1982 and 9 visits to North Korea since 2005.

Perhaps more significant internationally, Stephen’s publications fostering the next generation of geographers and geographical literacy have been influential throughout the world. He is the author of 59 books, mostly geography textbooks. His most famous book, the 752 page Planet Geography, was expanded in 2017 into a set of 10 books to support the new International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Geography syllabus. Planet Geography is currently used in 92 countries.

Stephen’s own formal geographical education began at Drummoyne Boys’ High School where he topped the NSW Higher School Certificate in Level 1 Geography in 1971. He continued his studies at Macquarie University, combining a Diploma of Education with a major in Geography, and received a First Class Honours degree in 1975. Getting married, helping to raise his children and studying part-time, Stephen completed his Ph.D. in 1983, which involved developing a new model of financial viability that was applied to evaluate the impact of government intervention in the dairy industry of the Bega Valley.

Stephen began his teaching career in 1977, then became Departmental Chair of Geography at St Ignatius College, Riverview. He became Principal at St Paul’s Grammar School (Penrith) in 1989 and served until 1997. He has been the Head of five schools in four countries over 25 years. After St. Paul’s Grammar came Kristin School (Auckland, New Zealand), Prince Alfred College (Adelaide), Li Po Chun United World College, Hong Kong between 2004 and 2011 and then The Awty International School, Houston, Texas until 2013. Significantly, as a Head of School, Stephen chose to continue working as a classroom teacher, thereby having a detailed working knowledge of classroom teachers’ everyday needs, excellent relationships with students, an up-to-date understanding of curriculum and a deep appreciation of the diversity within international education.

In early 2018 Stephen was appointed the Director of School Governance and Leadership Development, as well as Senior Lecturer, at Alphacrucis College, a Christian tertiary college with multiple campuses across Australia and New Zealand. Based in Parramatta, he teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, conducts research, professional development and school reviews, while spearheading a project to improve the quality of teacher training across sub-Saharan Africa.

With this amazing international experience and challenging leadership roles, one wonders how he managed to find time do anything with geographical societies. Incredibly, Stephen is a former President of the Geography Teachers Association (GTA) of NSW (twice; 1985-1986 and 1988-1991), and was Vice-President for eight years. In 1982 Stephen was elected as a member of the Council of the Geographical Society of New South Wales. Although simultaneously President of the GTA, he served as President of the Geographical Society from 1988 to 1990, and then Vice-President from 1990 to 1995, and again from 1995 to 1997. In 1998 Stephen was elected a Fellow of the Society. Upon his return to Australia after finishing at Awty in 2013, Stephen reconnected with the GSNSW. He is currently our Honorary Treasurer.

In addition to these various leadership roles which he has performed with grace, dignity and humour, Stephen has led successful GSNSW international Study Tours to such diverse destinations as China, Myanmar, Russia, Estonia, Uzbekistan, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Irian Jaya), Thailand and North Korea. These tours promote geographical literacy, international knowledge and a community of people passionate about geography.

As I noted at the beginning of this speech, Stephen believes “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. He believes that students should be encouraged to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones in every area of their formation, and to go forth into the world as responsible, ethical and compassionate young men and women, committed to putting into practice the ideals of peace, internationalism, justice and excellence in all things. Through his own practice, Stephen has lived this commitment in education and in his service to the discipline of geography and to geographical societies, including in multiple roles for the GSNSW. The Geographical Society of NSW is very grateful for his service and leadership and is proud to award Dr. Stephen Codrington Life Membership of the Society.

Presentation of my Award of Life Membership of the Geographical Society