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Ancora Imparo, June, 2008

4 June 2008

May 30 marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Monash University Act in the Victorian Parliament, formally marking the creation of Monash University. It was almost three years before the first students were admitted -- a mere 347 pioneers prepared to make the trek to Clayton and the untested new institution. It is quite amazing to reflect on the achievements of the University in the five decades since then.

On May 29 a Gala Dinner to celebrate its 50th birthday was held in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria attended by 530 distinguished guests and supporters, alumni, staff and students. It was a wonderful occasion that featured a variety of distinguished alumni awards and musical performances by Monash students. The Governor of Victoria, a Monash University staff member of 41 years standing, Professor David De Kretser AC presented the Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2007 to Professor Tim Flannery and Professor Dewi Fortuna Anwar. The full list of Distinguished Alumni for 2007 is available in Monash Memo and on the Alumni web-site.

In several of the speeches, reference was made to the unbelievable progress of the University since its foundation. It was great to have Lady Audrey Matheson, the widow of Monash's first Vice-Chancellor, Sir Louis Matheson, in attendance together with some of the foundation staff members. Reference was made to the role that Sir Louis played in setting the University's bold course, and his view that, "Universities should be full of people who do not take things at face value and are prepared to say so". Monash has never been short of such people and the boldness expressed in this sentence has been apparent throughout our history.

It was also a particular honour to have Dame Elisabeth Murdoch DBE, AC at the dinner. Council, at its most recent meeting, approved the award of the degree Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa to be conferred on Dame Elisabeth at Government House in the near future. Dame Elisabeth has been a great supporter of Monash University since its foundation.

Trevor O'Hoy, a distinguished alumnus and the Chair of the Fundraising Committee for Monash University announced the launch of the public component of the fund-raising appeal. Already $57m of the target of $200m has been raised and a high profile fundraising campaign committee is helping the staff of the University in fund-raising. The Chancellor, Dr Alan Finkel, set the tone for the evening by indicating that he and his wife Elizabeth were endowing a Chair of Global Health. This generosity sets an extraordinary example.

Other notable events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Monash University in May included the launch of the coffee table book celebrating the people, places and activity of Monash University, appropriately entitled Go Boldly. It is a beautifully photographed and produced book which should make every Monash staff member, alumnus/a and student feel proud. The Public Lecture series at BMW Edge Theatre at Federation Square continued with an informative and entertaining lecture by Professor Graeme Davison on the early days of Monash University.

Three of our Campuses are celebrating particular milestones this year as well as that for the University as a whole -- our Campus in Malaysia is 10 years old this year, our Peninsula Campus celebrates 50 years since its predecessor institution was founded and our Gippsland Campus 80 years since its predecessor was founded.

So this month has been one in which there has been much reflection on what Monash University has achieved in 50 years. Its current trajectory suggests that this is just the beginning of an amazing story.


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