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Vale Alan Coulter

Vale Alan Coulter

10 November 1932 - 3 June 2020.


We are saddened to hear and share news of Alan Coulter’s peaceful passing aged 87 in his home surrounded by his family.

Alan was instrumental in the founding and development of CAUDIT, AARNet, and the AusCERT computer emergency response team. Mention is made in CAUDIT’s history of Alan being at a meeting of IT Directors held in 1970 and another in Brisbane in May 1976.  He played a hugely significant role in the shaping of computing and subsequently IT and then ICT within the University of Queensland and Australian universities. 

Beginning his career as a Junior Postal Officer at the Postmaster General’s Office (PMG) in 1950 (which later became Australia Post), Alan studied a Bachelor of Economics with a Psychology major from UQ in 1955. He relocated to Melbourne with the PMG, and in 1959, Alan spent two months working on a new computing machine SILLIAC at The University of Sydney, during which time he explored how to use the new technology’s potential to drive Australia’s post and telegraph network. This experience proved pivotal in Alan’s career, igniting his love for computing, and as such significantly influencing the direction of Australia’s communications technologies over the next four decades. 

Following this life-changing time, Alan continued with PMG in roles including Psychologist, Senior Programmer, and then Deputy Assistant Director General. In 1967 Alan returned to Brisbane with his wife and three young children to take up a post with Brisbane City Council to integrate computing with business, and to the University of Queensland to help establish a post graduate diploma in information processing and lecture part-time in system design. 

Alan gained membership of the Queensland branch of the ACS, and became the founding editor of the branch’s newsletter, before taking up the role of branch chair in 1971-72 having been voted a Fellow in 1969, the same year his fourth child was born. He became director of the ACS technical board, and in 1984, President of the ACS. He was made an honorary life member of the ACS in 1986.

In 1969 Alan applied for a position as Administration Manager for a major Brisbane stockbroker Corrie and Co to broaden his business knowledge, which catapulted Alan into what he described as one of the most interesting times of his career during which he ran the business and research team, became General Manager of the firm’s 300 staff and five branches, and gained admission to the Australian Institute of Securities in 1972.  Alan also consulted to the Australian Stock Exchange on multiple occasions as a result. 

Alan returned to UQ to become the first full-time Director of the UQ Computer Centre in 1972 until retiring in 1995.  Under Alan’s Directorship the University’s computing services increased rapidly and widely through extensive and efficient networking to other institutions in Australia and beyond.

Alan’s dedication and foresight retained the Centre at the forefront of Service Centres, providing and responding to special services such as computer-aided design and phototypesetting. The University was indeed fortunate to have Alan’s contribution for almost thirty years, a period of extensive growth in all aspects of computing.   He then contributed part-time as an Executive Adviser until 2010.

In 1988 Alan was responsible for coordinating the University of Queensland’s contribution to World Expo 88 in Brisbane to showcase emerging technologies like email to more than 1.5 million members of the public. It was a major undertaking well done, and a very proud achievement personally for Alan.

In addition to the ACS, Alan also contributed to professional activities outside of the University such as the IFIP (The International Federation for Information Processing), where for a decade he was Australia’s representative on the Federation’s networking and processing committee. He was elected a Governor of the International Council for Computer Communication in 1972.

Alan was a founding and eventually, life member of the Australian Psychological Society. He became Vice President and later president (1986-87) of the Royal Society of Queensland, and in his presidential address focused on the effects that greenhouse gases would have over the next century on sea levels and monsoonal weather patterns in Queensland. Two decades later his forecasts have come to life. He performed National Service in the Australian Air Force and in his retirement renewed his association with former members of University Squadron. 

“Alan was always cooperative and supportive and well-liked by his staff who have acknowledged his constant support and encouragement.” - Professor Gordon Rose. 

“Alan was clever, canny, knowledgeable, hardworking, pragmatic, down to earth, absolutely funny, supportive of women, particularly in IT, thoroughly professional, and a mentor and guide to many.” - Janine Schmidt AM FALIA.

 “A very formidable and wise man.” - DEC Max Burnet.

Contributing to CAUDIT clearly runs in the family as Alan’s daughter Liz also contributed to CAUDIT (from 2011 to 2017), firstly at UQ, then as Member Rep and a member of the Executive Committee for over a year while at the University of Auckland. 

Admired by many, Alan will be forever remembered for his vision, intellect, determination and commitment to family. He was the proud father of four, grandfather of eight, and husband to his wife of 37 years, professional ballet dancer Pamela Proud. By all accounts Alan was a keen fisherman, a lapsed potter and sculptor, lover of the arts, and life of the party. CAUDIT extends our warmest condolences to Alan’s family.