Emeritus Professor John Baird describes himself as an engineering ''convert'', having studied science at the Australian National University during the 1960s before it offered any engineering courses.
But his fascination for aerodynamics and hypersonics allowed him to concentrate on a teaching and research career in engineering.
His first teaching job was at Duntroon and he moved to ADFA when it opened in 1986 - going on to head the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering in 1991.
He recalls what a groundbreaking school it was - purpose-built to cope with the high-tech demands of engineering.
While Professor Baird was lured back to the ANU to be Dean of Engineering and IT in 2001, he would return to ADFA in 2004 as the Rector - a position he held until his retirement in 2010.
Professor Baird, whose name is emblazoned on the John Baird Building - part of the School of Engineering and IT at ADFA - believed the practical applications of engineering also prepared him well for the crossover into management and administration.
He only wishes more Australians would see engineering as the promising field of study and employment it actually is.
Professor Baird hoped the award might draw more attention to engineering as a rewarding career destination.
''Certainly it is great to have any opportunity to point out to young people the enormous breadth of opportunity that is available to those with a technical background.''
He also paid tribute to friends and colleagues in the field over his career who had made a significant contribution to him achieving such an honour.