Monash honoured

Image of the Sir John Monash statue
Sir John is depicted in civilian clothes. He is standing on a concrete bridge, symbolic of his engineering career, and wearing a coat lapel to represent the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League badge.

Report Shaunnagh O’Loughlin
Photography Aasmund Heimark

The University’s namesake Sir John Monash said: “...equip yourself  for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole  community”. It is this ethos and generosity of spirit from the University’s  alumni community that has  seen  Sir John honoured with a significant sculpture at the Monash Clayton campus.

This year marks 150 years since Sir John Monash was born in Melbourne. A civil  engineer, soldier, and public administrator,  Sir John was a man who used education to  turn his natural talent into ability, allowing him  to contribute to almost every level of Australian  life.  He  has remained an important force at  Monash University across its history.

A project to honour Sir John was initiated by The Monash Pioneers – an informal association  of students and staff who were at Monash  between 1961 and 1965. The group formed  following a reunion in 2011 with a view to funding projects that would enhance the  University’s  heritage  value.

Monash Pioneers chair Michael Headberry (BA  1977, DipEd 1977, GradDipMktg 1981) said the  group felt the sculpture would be a good initial  fundraising project, allowing them to give back  to the University while enhancing the physical  environment  of  the campus for current students,  staff, alumni and the community.

“We wanted to celebrate Monash and honour  its first students and staff. What better way todo this than to recognise Sir John whose life  and accomplishments stand as an inspiration  to all members of the University family?”

More than 220 alumni, friends and organisations  got behind the idea, funding the project and  enabling the Pioneers to commission renowned  Australian sculptor Peter Corlett OAM. The brief:  celebrate Sir John’s contribution to Australia as  a  scholar,  engineer, lawyer, soldier, educator,  businessman, patron of the arts, Rotarian  and visionary.

The sculpture was officially unveiled in April 2015 by the then Governor of Victoria, the Hon.  Dr Alex Chernov AC QC (HonLLD 2014) in front of 350 alumni and supporters.

“It was extremely satisfying to see the four-year  project realised,” Mr Headberry said.

“What has resulted is everything we had hoped for. Peter has done an amazing job of capturing  Sir John’s commanding personality and  demeanour.

“The statue also received much acclaim from donors at the unveiling. I feel privileged that  with their support the Pioneers were able to  present the University and current and future  generations with such a significant celebration  of Sir John’s  life  and legacy.

“We hope our efforts will act as a catalyst for other generations of alumni to take on  similar projects.”

Monash President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO said it was  fitting to have a statue of Sir John Monash  on campus so that students and visitors could  appreciate that the University was named after  a man who had an enormous impact on  Australian  life.

“Sir John’s contribution to Australia spanned many fields apart from his remarkable military  achievements – an example for all of our  students to aspire to,” Professor Gardner said.

“I would like to acknowledge the generosity of the organisations and individuals who donated  to this project. Most of all, I would like to thank  the group who drove this project – our Monash  Pioneers.

“It is wonderful that our graduates continue to be so deeply engaged with the University.”