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Salesian Brother recalls how he became uni’s first graduate

By Paul Dobbyn

SALESIAN Brother Michael Lynch won two “lucky draws” in 1964 to become the first graduate of Melbourne’s Monash University.

This honour saw the Australian Salesians director of mission invited to address graduands in Business and Economics at an awards ceremony in the university’s golden jubilee year. He delivered his speech on the campus to nearly 700 graduands, parents and staff on May 19.

Br Lynch opened by explaining to the gathering how he came to be Monash’s first graduate.

“There were 67 to graduate from three faculties: Arts, Economics and Science,” he said. “There was a ballot to determine which faculty would be presented first, that was won by Economics. When a further ballot was held to determine who would be the ‘first’, my name came out.”

Topics covered by Br Lynch in his address included Australia’s changed cultural landscape since his graduation in 1964, what student life had been like in the foundational years of Monash University and his eventual decision to join the Salesian order.

A graduation booklet handed out during the ceremony noted that Br Lynch as part of his ministry had “travelled extensively to countries including Timor Leste, Solomon Islands, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Sudan, Sudan and Ethiopia”.

“During overseas visits he assists with leadership training programs, and improving systems of accountability and transparency,” the booklet said.

“Michael was awarded the City of Moreland Senior Citizen of the Year in 2008 and in 2012 was inducted into the Hall of Fame of St Bede’s College, Mentone, where he received part of his secondary education.”

The Salesian Brother in his May 19 address said he was grateful for opportunities received through his life.

“I regard it as a great blessing having been at Monash in those early years,” he said. “Individuals interacted with each other as we looked at and discussed ideas and opinions. The foundation I received at Monash prepared me well for my future work and graduate studies at Harvard (M.Ed 1983).

“I realise that knowledge of itself does not mean much; rather it is what is done with the knowledge that counts.”

Br Lynch also spoke of his career and ministry after life at Monash.

“After graduating in Economics and Politics I decided to join the Salesians, a Catholic congregation of priests and brothers,” he said. “I was attracted to the Salesians because of the founder Don Bosco and his work for social justice, especially through education and self-help projects for needy youth.”

Br Lynch went on to explain that while a good deal of his time with the order had been spent as a teacher and principal, for the past 18 years he had been in charge of Salesian Missions – the overseas aid and development office.

“My work is now largely fundraising and supporting development projects in Don Bosco schools and centres mainly in Asian-Pacific countries,” he said. “During field visits I often meet Monash graduates. It always serves as an easy introduction.”

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