Vale Emeritus Professor Robert Milns AM

27 February 2020
Emeritus Professor Robert Milns
Emeritus Professor Robert Milns AM.

Emeritus Professor Robert David Milns AM spent his life deepening our understanding of the ancient world. After his passing on 20 February 2020 he leaves a legacy that will stand the test of time.

Known as “Bob” to all who knew him, Emeritus Professor Milns joined the university as its third Professor of Classics in 1970. At the time of his retirement in 2003 he had not only served the University for 33 years, but also rejuvenated the study of Classics and Ancient history at UQ and in the broader community.

Following his retirement, Emeritus Professor Milns continued to be actively involved in engaging the community with the classical past, up until his death. This represents combined service to teaching the classics in Queensland of 50 years.

Emeritus Professor Milns was a graduate of both Leeds and Cambridge universities and was a world renowned expert on Alexander the Great and his father Philip II of Macedon. However, he maintained a wide-ranging interest in all parts of the classical world and could comment with authority on diverse topics from the Minoan civilisation to the fall of Rome. As a lecturer, supervisor and mentor, Emeritus Professor Milns influenced and enriched the lives and careers of generations of Classics students at The University of Queensland. He is remembered for his infectious laugh, winding anecdotes and tangents that were as informative as the topic he was supposed to be addressing.

In 2007, The University of Queensland’s Antiquities Museum was named in his honour. Under his leadership as Professor of Classics, the Museum that bears his name was transformed from a small collection of less than 200 pieces to a collection of over 6000 artefacts. The Museum is also a centre of public outreach into the community.

Emeritus Professor Milns was a founding member of the Friends of Antiquity in 1988, a special interest group of the Alumni Friends of The University of Queensland. The Friends conduct a range of public outreach activities and provide critical support to the discipline of Classics and Ancient History at the University.

He served as both president and patron of the Friends and was an active and dedicated member. The annual RD Milns Lecture brings an eminent overseas classicist to the University to spend time as a visitor to the discipline, and provide a keynote public lecture.

Emeritus Professor Milns was a UQ Senator and long-term member of the University’s Academic Board. He was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1997, and received a Centenary Medal in 2003. Both awards recognised his service to education, particularly in the area of Classics and Ancient History at UQ and in the community.

An active and beloved member of the Greek Community in Brisbane, in 1996 Emeritus Professor Milns was made an Honorary Member of the Greek Orthodox Community of St George, Brisbane.

In 2004 he received the Australian Hellenic Council’s Nike Award for distinguished service.

Through his vision and commitment, Emeritus Professor Milns brought the classical world to life. His warmth and enthusiasm live on through the countless students, scholars and community members who were fortunate enough to know him, and through the RD Milns Antiquities Museum. He strengthened our ties to the past, and in doing so left a legacy that will last long into the future.