OXFORD HILLS — An Aussie in the Hall of Honer? Well, not exactly.
This year’s Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Alumni Hall of Honor inductee is Stephen R. Kessell, Class of 1967, who currently lives in Australia.
The Class of ’67 was the first class to graduate from the then new high school, Kessell recalls, and, he says, his class swept the state science fair, building a telescope and observatory for the district.
He was totally surprised and extremely pleased to learn that he’d been chosen for this lovely acknowledgement from Oxford Hills. He has been residing in Western Australia for the past 40 years.
Thinking back to the Class of 1967, he immediately recalled several events; one being the first class to graduate from the new high school, and his class sweeping the State Science Fair, and building a telescope and observatory for the school district which is now known as the Twitchell Observatory.
Following his high school graduation, he attended the University of Maine for a year and then won a full scholarship to Amherst College, intending a career in astronomy.
However, he says, he got hooked on the evolving field of scientific ecology. He graduated summa cum laude and second in his class at Amherst. He turned down a full PhD scholarship at Harvard and instead chose Cornell in upstate New York.
His doctoral fieldwork took him to Glacier National Park in Montana. The scientific publisher Springer-Veriag published his draft thesis as a hardcover book. He left Cornell, moved to Montana, refined his work, and then extended it to southern California, western Canada and Hawaii.
He had published much on fire simulation projects, which led to an invitation to come to Australia for a month. Two months later, they offered him a 12-month contract to come back to Australia and supervise the work.
Kessell joined Curtin University in 1987 after an extensive career in government (USA, Canadian, and Australian federal departments) and the private sector (as managing director of three different software development companies).
He spent 1987-96 as associate professor and foundation head of the Department of Geographic Information Systems in the School of Computing (where he was also the undergraduate course coordinator). In 1996, he joined the National Key Centre for School Science and Mathematics.
Kessell has become increasingly involved with science and IT teaching and education research at the undergraduate and secondary school levels. He currently is involved in action research programs in six Perth schools that are using IT and multimedia in a growing range of subjects, and he is the principal investigator on a three-year longitudinal evaluation of Penrhos College’s “laptop computers across the curriculum” program.
In 1999, Kessell designed a Graduate Certificate in Learning Technologies, taught entirely via the WWW and a CD-ROM, for the on-going professional development of classroom teachers worldwide.
Kessell is the author of two science textbooks, many book chapters, and more than 100 scientific publications.
Six years ago he became a practicing Theravada Buddhist.
Kessell is unable to attend the Homecoming celebration and induction but his sister will stand in for him, according to OHCHS Principal Ted Moccia.