NEARLY 17 years ago Mark Willacy graduated from the University of Southern Queensland with the ambition to travel the world reporting on some of the biggest stories.
But yesterday Mr Willacy made the journey home to where it all began in Toowoomba to accept what he said was "up there with some of the highlights of his career".
The current ABC foreign correspondent was named USQ Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, beating a worthy field of contenders in the prestigious award.
"It's been a long, winding and often hair-raising road from my graduation to be here today," Mr Willacy said.
"It is truly an honour to receive this award and to be back in my hometown."
The award is just another Mr Willacy can add to his growing list of accolades which already includes twice winning Australia's most prestigious journalism prize.
In 2011, as a nominee in more categories than any other journalist, Mr Willacy took out the Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism, Radio News and Current Affairs with his report on the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
He is now the bureau chief/North Asia correspondent for ABC TV and Radio, based in Tokyo.
Mr Willacy said his decision to give up on his engineering degree to follow his desire to be a journalist was a decision worth making after filing stories from more than 30 countries around the world.
"The faculty of arts really did challenge me to think," he said.
"That was where I found my intellectual home."
Outstanding Alumnus of the Year - Mark Willacy
Faculty of Arts - Mark Willacy
Faculty of Business and Law - Atalina Enari
Faculty of Education - Dr Victoria Close
Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Tony Brun
Faculty of Sciences - Dr June Henry
Young Alumnus of the Year - Katrina Hobbs
International Alumnus of the Year - Khalid Al-Mabrouk Adballa