Law School farewells IT Manager Bruce Robinson

01 November 2011


At the end of 2010, valued colleague and IT manager Bruce Robinson retired from the University of Auckland and ended his long and distinguished tenure at the Faculty of Law.

Bruce joined the University in 1985. He started in Bob Elliott’s pediatrics research team at the Med School and stayed for two very engaging years. As an electronics design engineer, he primarily worked on developing an automated dosage nebuliser aimed at helping children control diabetes. He then moved to the School of Music, setting up and managing a challenging suite of technology resources at in their new building. Bruce worked for six years with passionate musicians, and he often smiles when he hears the names of students he helped who are now performing in New Zealand and overseas.

Following his work at the Music School, Bruce was offered the technology support role in an innovative new teaching programme at the Executive Programmes department of the Business School. This was the “Executive MBA Programme”, where he assisted in developing a novel flexible learning regime for academic staff and students. Bruce was using email and PowerPoint presentations from laptops while these were still being developed as teaching and learning tools at the University. He also set up a learning management system before CECIL (the current University of Auckland system) came online. Eventually Bruce’s role expanded to become IT manager for the department. He also assisted the Business School in developing its new Short Street facilities after the building was remodeled. While in residence there, Bruce helped build a new network, new high-tech lecture theatres, and a computer lab with IT training facilities for business students.

In 1997, Bruce took over from Mark Perry as IT manager for the Faculty of Law. The Law School environment was a perfect fit for information technologies. Bruce’s initial task was to provide a stable and reliable infrastructure on which to build the Law School’s IT resources. A managed life cycle for all hardware and the updating of network systems was established. Apple Macintosh computers became the Law School’s platform standard, as they were clearly the most dependable, easy to use, and easiest for Bruce to support. The computer lab was also made more reliable, with an automated rebuild of all software occurring each night and lab supervisors trained to provide student support. Bruce also built a more user-friendly and attractive Faculty website. He made web updating easier and provided separate web pages for most Law School courses. Each of these had a simple to use online discussion facility, together with quick access to course notes and presentations.

In 2002, shortly after the upgrade to iMac computers for all staff, the Law School suffered a major burglary. Offices in Building 803 were broken into and all the brand new computers stolen. Also taken were the Law School’s file server computers that we used for backing up staff desktops and the Faculty’s web server. Fortunately, the Law School’s back up tapes were not lost, and its hardware supplier was quickly able to replace the stolen computers themselves. After a week or so of frantic struggle by Bruce and others, most of the IT infrastucture at the Law School was replaced or recovered.

As IT became a more pivotal tool and resource within the Law School and The University of Auckland, Bruce’s workload steadily increased. Eventually a technical support assistant was provided. A second assistant followed, whose job was to manage the Law School’s website development and updates, as well as to deal with its public communications.

For the last few years, Bruce experienced students arriving as “digital natives” - those who have grown up with digital technologies and who come to the Law School with high IT skills and expectations. Many law students turned up with laptops and expected to be able to use these effectively. They needed good wireless networking and access to power points for charging their mobile equipment. They also expected comprehensive online resources for their courses. Bruce greatly assisted in making these available. He built an electronic noticeboard system that was installed in the Law School foyers, and used it to inform students of ongoing Faculty events. He also supported lecturers by providing video links that allowed teaching and conference participation with universities around the world.

Bruce’s tremendous efforts have left the Law School well positioned to take advantage of emerging IT trends. These include ubiquitous online access to all information required by staff and students, facilitated by mobile devices such as smartphones or the iPad. Much of this work will be done through “cloud computing”, where ultra-reliable and fast data storage systems, perhaps not even owned by the University, will be easily accessible by all. Bruce envisions a greater part at the Law School for resources like Facebook and Google, and predicts exciting times ahead for the role of IT in the teaching and study of law.

As someone who has worked with and known Bruce for close to 15 years, I can state that he has left an indelible and incomparable mark on the Law School, its students and its staff. We owe him more than we can say, and will always be grateful for his patient expertise, calm professionalism, great collegiality and warm friendship. Everyone at the Law School will miss him, but we will constantly be reminded of his efforts every time we sit down at our computers. In typically modest fashion, Bruce wanted to thank everyone at the Law School for “the life-lasting experience of having worked with you and the support you have shown me - with special thanks to the IT/Web support team over the last few years of Stephen Poon, Bipin Chavan and Cerian Wagstaff”. Those are kind and deserved words from someone who knows.

Scott Optican

Our thanks

Staff and students offer their grateful thanks to Kerry Tetzlaff, Sanjana Prasad, Andrea Martin and Pera Ulu, who have also left during the course of 2011. Each of them has made a major contribution to the Faculty in their respective roles of Postgraduate Manager (Europe), Finance Manager, Postgraduate Manager, and Pouawhina Maori. Their hard work and dedication have been much appreciated.