Where are they now – Br Michael Lynch (SPC 1958-60)
March 29, 2021
The College recently reconnected with former boarder Br Michael Lynch (SPC 1958-60), who has been a Salesian Brother for over a half a decade and was the first graduate of Melbourne’s Monash University. Following his recent retirement, Michael has taken the opportunity to reflect on his memories from his time at SPC and his fulfilling work as a Salesian Brother.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
In one sentence, I have been a Salesian Brother for 56 years.
I was a 15-year-old from Frankston in 1958 when I commenced my three years at St Patrick’s College Ballarat. Based on my Matriculation results in 1960, I won a Commonwealth Scholarship and enrolled at the newly opened Monash University in the Melbourne suburb of Clayton.
I remember Monash’s first day. It was the second Monday in March, Labour Day. We gathered for an Address of Welcome by Vice Chancellor who said, among other things, that the reputation of this new university will be determined by the quality of its graduates.
There were fewer than 350 in that cohort at Monash, less than the enrolment at St Pat’s. Today it is Australia’s largest university.
I graduated from Monash in 1964. I had the privilege of being the first graduate. How did it happen? There were 67 to graduate from three Faculties: Arts, Economics and Science. 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.
After graduating I decided to join the Salesians, a Congregation of priests and brothers. 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.
A good deal of my time over the past 56 years has been in secondary schools as teacher and Principal, and head of a university college for five years. From 1996 to 2020 I was in charge of the Salesian Missions Office for overseas aid and development. My work was largely fundraising and supporting development projects in Don Bosco schools and centres mainly in Asian – Pacific countries.
(The transcript of Michael’s speech in 2014, recognising the 50th anniversary since he became Monash University’s first graduate, can be read here)
Do you have family ties with SPC?
I don’t have family ties with St Patrick’s College.
What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I very much enjoyed my time as a boarding student at St Patrick’s College. The school provided me with a supportive friendly environment in which to study and to grow up. I appreciated the opportunity to make friends with people from different backgrounds and to play sport – though my abilities were limited and I tended to “fill-in” as an umpire.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
All my teachers were helpful and wanted us to give of our best.
Br Bill Monagle taught me English and Mathematics in each of the three years I was at St Pat’s. A quiet, reserved person, he was a very good teacher who made his classes interesting and was interested in the students.
Though he did not teach me in class, Br Herb Williams who lived in McCann House when I resided there with other Matriculation (Year 12) students, was always helpful and related well to us.
Another man who was a good friend, and with whom I chatted often, was the College Chaplain, John Molony.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
I am very grateful for the education I have received. My time at St Patrick’s College helped me build on foundations received from my family and previous schooling. Specifically, I felt St Pat’s assisted me to grow in both self-reliance and self-confidence, and also to develop a preparedness for whatever the future may hold.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
Looking back, I think my time at SPC helped me to realise that all aspects of life are integrated. I started to appreciate that the studies, work, sport, relationships etc taken together are linked; they serve a purpose; they are held together by our spirituality and are the basis of what we do in life.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
All aspects of life are important. Do your best at all times. It is only when you look back that you will see that in God’s plan, things happen for a purpose and become part of the fabric of your life.
Michael Lynch, pictured in the Holy Name Executive, in 1960.