In Paul Wellings' own words, it's been a long goodbye since it was announced last June that the University of Wollongong vice-chancellor would leave his post.
History will be created at the end of this month when Patricia Davidson, UOW's first ever female VC takes the reins.
But for the time being it is still Professor Wellings' time, as it was when the Mercury caught up with the departing VC last Friday.
Earlier in the day Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley literally sang the praises of Prof Wellings after the new Molecular Horizons building was named the Paul Wellings Building.
But on the other side of the coin student protesters were outside the building complaining about job cuts and the special treatment afforded to the departing uni boss.
The day perhaps best symbolised Prof Wellings' almost 10-year stint at UOW.
During this time UOW's fourth vice-chancellor has been praised by many quarters for bringing UOW into the 21st century and seeing Wollongong ranked as one of the top 200 universities in the world.
During his decade in charge, Prof Wellings has overseen the significant expansion of the university nationally and internationally.
Under his tenure, UOW has spent $870 million on its facilities, including the Liverpool campus, Molecular Horizons, iAccelerate, the new Arts and Social Sciences building and 820 new student accommodation beds.
UOW also delivers teaching to students in the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Singapore.
But Prof Wellings' policies, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, did not sit well with many students and academic staff.
When it was announced he was leaving, Georgine Clarsen, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch president at UOW, said "one of our big bugbears has been the increase in casualisation and insecure work for staff. We are also disappointed that he was the first to bring the Ramsay Centre course to Wollongong."
Staff and student union representatives have since clashed with Prof Wellings on numerous occasions, mainly over the "One-UOW management cost cutting and job cutting plan".
They also criticised Prof Wellings' decision to cut the Academic Senate to 50 members.
Academics hit out saying the changes to UOW's principal academic body were a "breach of trust".
But Prof Wellings said he had no regrets during his time in charge at UOW.
"We've done a lot of things and moved at speed all over the place so we have a more streamlined university to when I arrived," he said.
"We had 11 faculties. Now we have four and we've put in place a whole range of services and organisational structures and we have been able to diversify overseas.
"We have built three new academic schools - geography and sustainable communities, liberal arts and health and society. These are three areas that we didn't have 10 years ago.
"Some of those are seen as controversial areas but there now are newer clinical endeavours that we have pushed into in order to position the university for the future."
Prof Wellings took over the VC role at UOW in 2012.
His retirement will bring to an end a 40-year career which included periods as vice-chancellor of Lancaster University (2002-11) and deputy chief executive of the CSIRO (1999-2002).
"I've been a vice-chancellor for 19 years and by far the toughest time was in 2020," he said.
"By chance we had stood up our crisis management processes because of the fires on the south coast, so that machinery was running and by this time last year we had expenditure controls in place.
"That wasn't popular because I don't think people saw the scale of what was about to happen.
"I think fortunately for us we made the decision to build a budget strategy that goes all the way out to 2023.
"Now what we know, with the way we got surges of the disease elsewhere around the world, I think that was an act of prudence by us."
Prof Wellings argued UOW had not put all of its eggs in one basket in relying heavily on international students to thrive financially.
He said the tourist industry in NSW relied heavily on international students, with 40 cents in the dollar directly linked to students and their parents spending a lot of time and money in this state.
"I don't think this so-called reliance on international students is a risk strategy," Prof Wellings said.
"We've diversified. We were India, China and Nepal as our top three markets.
"I don't think that anybody had seen a global pandemic as something that was going to hit any businesses let alone universities.
"All of those students were additional to the domestic students. They weren't displacing domestic students, they were adding to the complexity of universities.
"My instinct is it is still an area that we have to get back into as a policy sense.
"I say that because the world's student numbers double in the next 20 years. So Indonesia, India, China, Vietnam - all of these economies have relatively young citizens.
"There is a huge number of people who will come through to university age and they will be able to come.
"It is tailor-made for Australia to engage with those economies and in our interest to engage more and more in most of those economies."
Prof Wellings is also hopeful of seeing more progress on UOW's world-class Health and Wellbeing Precinct before he retires.
"Clearly that is not going to be finished during my time," he said.
"We know that all the ageing and retirement living activities and all the ancillary research around retirement living and ageing will be one of the great enduring activities from here all the way down to Eden because the demographics are such now that we go grey faster than population growth.
"This is an issue for the Illawarra as we recover post Covid pandemic to try and imagine where the changing balance of skills and needs will be.
"The Health and Wellbeing Precinct I think is one of those that we have to keep on leaning on and pushing through."
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.