THE former Launceston schoolboy and the man at the centre of establishing Australia's diplomatic relationships with China in the 1970s was "honoured" by a sentimental gesture on Thursday.
Founder of the Australia China Council, Order of Australia member and the nation's first ambassador to China, Stephen FitzGerald, returned to his former school as its inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award recipient.
It was at Launceston Church Grammar School where Dr FitzGerald's strong values for ethical behaviour and quiet self-recognition were instilled.
"It's quite an emotional thing to be recognised in this way by the school you went to," he said.
"There are other points of recognition where you can see in some ways a more direct connection between what I did as ambassador ... but this is somehow more personal.
"It brings back all of these memories of when you were a schoolboy, growing up at a school as a boarder here in Launceston Grammar and all of the things that go with that."
Dr FitzGerald graduated from Grammar in 1956, and later married in its chapel in 1961, but did not maintain strong connections with the establishment after moving to Canberra to join the diplomatic institute.
"I am honoured, flattered, to be the first recipient of this award," he said.
"This was a school that was very strong on values based on what was often called 'doing the right thing'. But doing the right thing meant helping others and respecting others, and having a good sense of ethical behaviour.
"There was also a sense of not being boastful about success, so at that time if someone kicked a goal, or hit a six, they accepted the applause but didn't rush around beating their breast. I still find that quite difficult to accept when I see it on television.
"I think it was a good quality, because it encouraged self-knowledge and self-awareness, understanding your successes but also that there can be limitations in what you do."