Vale James Power Senior

James Power Sr
James Power Sr
04 Jun 2024

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of James Power Snr, beloved founding fellow of Campion College Australia. His contributions to our college were immeasurable, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations. Dr. Paul Morrissey, President of Campion College, shared with the students a tribute to his legacy before a College Mass offered for the repose of his soul: "James Power's determination was instrumental in founding Campion College. The college simply would not have existed without his vision and generosity "

James Power's obituary was published in The Australian over the weekend. See below to read the full obituary written by Tess Livingstone.

His funeral will be held at the Brisbane Oratory tomorrow. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones during this time. May he rest in peace.



James Power. Campion College founder. Born May 16, 1940, Beaudesert, Queensland; died Brisbane, May 22, aged 84

For a man destined to establish Australia’s first tertiary liberal arts college, Campion College, at Old Toongabbie in Sydney’s west, academic study was not James Power’s strong suit at school. He preferred rugby, any day.

“Son, what you know about chemistry would fit on the back of a stamp,” one of the crusty old Christian Brothers who taught Power at St Joseph’s Nudgee College in Brisbane’s north told him as he approached the end of year 12 in 1957, hoping to go to university. Another brother was even more doubtful about young Power’s prospects in his final exams: “Son, you couldn’t pass a stationary tram.”

Power would sometimes explode with laughter as he recalled these stories. His talent was business – he was a born entrepreneur. Likewise his younger brother Bernard (who launched Power Brewing and became a major sponsor of the Brisbane Broncos in the late 1980s). They followed in the footsteps of their father, also James, who ran pubs around in country Queensland and in Brisbane. Power Sr had come to Australia decades earlier from the village of O’Brien’s Bridge in County Clare, Ireland.

James Power’s enterprises also were flourishing in the ’80s when he invested in a high-rise hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast, linked to Jupiters Casino by monorail. It should have been a sure-fire winner. But the 1989 pilots strike grounded aviation in Australia for months and cost James Power and his family – wife Peggy and their children James, Damian, Erica, Ann-Louise, Kate and Conor – all their assets, including the family home.

Renting a house was an uncomfortable experience that Power hated. But his entrepreneurship rose to the fore. He invested his last $10,000 (or borrowed it on his last credit card, he told me years later) to respond to a tender put out by the Queensland government to operate a personalised number plates business. Others had doubts; he saw possibilities and he made it work beyond expectations.

Its success allowed Power to devote more to the Catholic charities he had supported for years, develop his interest in cattle farming and to take on a new dream. In the ’70s, Sr Mary Veronica, prioress of the Carmelite Monastery in Ormiston, Brisbane, introduced James and Karl Schmude, the University of New England librarian and a freelance writer. They became close friends. Schmude, the nun knew, had long wanted to see a Catholic liberal arts college established in Australia to provide an integrated program of classical education at university level. Power, she recognised, had the drive and generosity to make it a reality.

As Schmude recounted, Power brought “strong financial skills, a knowledge of property and prime location, a capacity to negotiate and achieve results, and a sense of opportunity and readiness to take risks” to the venture. A sense of humour helped, too.

“We both knew that the creation of Campion as an independent tertiary college, the first of its kind in Australia, was a long shot, educationally and financially,” he said. “James would occasionally say to me: ‘Karl, if this were a business venture, I wouldn’t have a bar of it!’ ” But he did. Power knew when to coax, how to wheel and deal and when, in his own words, to “kick heads” – metaphorically.

Long before most, Power and Schmude recognised the encroaching malaise in education, especially in the humanities. It has become more evident as the years have passed. At the very least, Power hoped, Campion would give future teachers an intellectual and spiritual grounding for life. From 2000 onwards, Power and Schmude worked together virtually full time: fundraising; acquiring the right site, a former Marist seminary at Old Toongabbie; engaging the right teaching staff, many of whom left well-established careers in universities; organising students; and setting up scholarships. The college opened in 2006, modelled on US liberal arts colleges such as Christendom College, Virginia, and many others. From a small base Campion has grown, with a first-year intake of more than 50 students this year.

In some ways, Cardinal George Pell said in his last major speech in Australia, Pearl in an Eroding Landscape – the Campion fundraising dinner in Sydney in August 2022 – colleges such as Campion needed to remain reasonably small. Students learned from the great books, under a tutorial system similar to that used in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, for centuries. Remaining small, the Cardinal Pell said, helped “enhance the question and answer, objection and response, the dialogue, which is at the heart of all genuine tertiary education, especially in the humanities”.
Campion, Pell said, was “a bright example of political incorrectness … dedicated to the study of Western civilisation, that magnificent flowering from the fusion of the ancient traditions of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome”.

Through history, literature, philosophy and theology, the liberal arts program, he said, aims to impart “an integrated understanding of the events, ideas, movements, personalities and works which have shaped the development of Western culture’’. Optional units are offered in science, maths, Latin and Ancient Greek.

Students, Pell said, learn to analyse and synthesise, to say what they mean and mean what they say, to write and think logically and clearly and to have practical wisdom – an ideal base for any career. Campion graduates go on to subsequent degrees and careers in law, medicine, business, education and the priesthood.

Power’s son, also James, a businessman, is involved in establishing an independent classical Catholic school, St John Henry Newman College, opening in Brisbane in 2026. James Power He and his sister Erica Schuman are both active in the governance and support of Campion College.

Power’s youngest son, Father Conor Power, a Campion graduate, will offer his father’s funeral mass at the Brisbane Oratory church on Wednesday.