Sunday, June 16, 2019
Ron McCallum has been blind from birth. When he was a child, many blind people spent their lives making baskets in sheltered workshops, but Ron's mother had other ideas for her son. She insisted on treating him as normally as possible.
In this endearing memoir, Ron recounts his social awkwardness and physical mishaps, and shares his early fears that he might never manage to have a proper career, find love or become a parent. He has achieved all this and more, becoming a professor of law at a prestigious university, and chairing a committee at the United Nations.
Ron's glass is always half full. He has taken advantage of every new assistive technology and is in awe of what is now available to allow him and other blind people to realise their potential. His is a life richly lived, by a man who remains open to all people from all walks of life.
And here's a brief description of Ron from his U. Sydney bio:
Ronald C McCallum AO was the foundation Blake Dawson Waldron Professor in Industrial Law in the University of Sydney Law School. He took up this position in January 1993 and retired from this position on 30 September 2007. This Blake Dawson Waldron professorship was the first full professorship in industrial law at any Australian university. Ron is the first totally blind person to have been appointed to a full professorship in any field at any university in Australia or New Zealand. Ron McCallum was employed on a fixed-term contract as a Professor of Labour Law in Sydney Law School from 1 February 2008 until 31 December 2010. In January 2011, he was appointed to an Emeritus Professorship in Sydney Law School.
Neither of these descriptions do Ron justice, even halfway. His faculty bio somehow omits the fact that he was a longstanding and very successful dean at Sydney, and I think it's fair to say that he was the first "modern" dean of the law school in the sense that he elevated the position from that of a mostly internal administrator to an external representative of the Law School to the external world at a global level. More than that, Ron was extremely generous with his time mentoring generations of young labor academics, and one of the nicest, down-to-earth academic leaders I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Apropos of this, here's a tribute from Paul Harpur (Queensland), one of Ron's biggest fans:
Ron has had a profound impact upon those he has touched. I lost my eyesight at the age of 14 in a train accident and followed Ron’s career with interest. It was no surprise that I followed Ron into labor law. in 2003 Ron and I became friends and ever since then I have seen Ron as a hero. It is no surprise that Ron and I are both blind, both labor lawyers, both academics, and both with an interest in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Ron on formerly charring the CRPD Committee and Paul publishing on that same committee). Outside work Ron’s stories and generosity has influenced tens of thousands, and through his work on the UN CRPD Committee all persons with disabilities across the globe.
Thanks to Dennis Nolan (emeritus, South Carolina) for providing a heads-up on Ron's memoir.
UPDATE: Ron wrote to ask me to post the following:
Thank you for all of the very kind comments. I am truly humbled by your words. My life has been devoted to the teaching and practice of labour law to play my part in seeking to ensure fairness between workers and entrepreneurs. My book is titled “Born At The Right Time: A Memoir” and it comes out on 1 July in Australia and is published by Allen and Unwin. Overseas friends can purchase it through the book depository website.
Ron McCallum AO