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A RETIRED UNE professor and grandfather of 10 has been honoured as the region's only Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for 2014.
Ross Thomas, a goliath in the field of educational leadership, said he was "honoured and delighted" to receive the gong, one of only 225 in the nation to be awarded it.
"I'm just a little embarrassed but it's a recognition of a field I've worked in for so long and helped develop," Mr Thomas said.
"I can point to several colleagues who deserve this as much as I do."
Starting his career as a teacher at the Queensland School of the Deaf, Mr Thomas took a posting at UNE in Armidale in 1968 and quickly found himself at the forefront of the emerging field of educational leadership.
He rose to become dean of the uni's faculty of education, nursing and professional studies and was editor of the esteemed Journal of Educational Administration.
He has won numerous awards for his work and been a visiting professor in Canada, the USA and Great Britain.
"I've long been fascinated by leadership in education," Mr Thomas said.
"A good leader encourages others to lead; they innovate, they change and they improve.
"Ultimately, that's what will affect the children. The ultimate goal is an educated child."