It was 1967. As Australia fought in Vietnam, University of New South Wales pro vice-chancellor Rupert Myers prepared for a battle of his own: providing a tertiary education to young officers.
Sir Rupert faced opposition from anti-war colleagues concerned about associating with the Army and Navy. Others were not sold on the benefits of combining military training and academia.
He pressed on. An agreement was forged but no formal signing held as it was assumed the partnership would be short-term.
Returning to campus 50 years later to celebrate a still-strong marriage between the institutions was "very exciting", Sir Rupert, 96, said on Tuesday.
"The thing I enjoy is over the years we've done so many things, changed so many things and gradually drilled into a pretty good arrangement - I think something we can be pretty proud of," he said.
Sir Rupert's last duty as vice chancellor in 1981 was to sign the agreement that established the University College within the Australian Defence Force Academy.
About 2000 Defence-sponsored students now study at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, which offers undergraduate and postgraduate studies to officer cadets of the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Regular Army and Royal Australian Air Force.
Sir Rupert pushed to provide degree studies to uniformed officers because he believed in the benefits of a "balanced and liberal" education, he said.
"It gradually became realised that military officers had to be really well educated to achieve the roundness in officers so that they could cope with all the kinds of interactions they have - not only military, which is very important of course, but all the other diplomatic and negotiating with other leaders of armies and businessmen and commerce leaders," he said.
"Their role is very broad and in wartime can be very complex. People like that really need a decent, rounded education as well as their military training."
A luncheon was held on Tuesday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the agreement between the Australian Defence Force and the University of New South Wales.
Sir Rupert, while acknowledging the "comfortable, sensible arrangement" and that it was "not for me to decide", said he envisioned ADFA one day becoming a tertiary institution in its own right.
"I suppose one could also see the Australian Defence Force Academy was regarded as a university or became a university," he said.
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