Welcome to the Hall!

Welcome to the Hall!

You may think there are many interesting faces on the wall - the truth is that while there are extraordinary faces on the walls - Governors general, prize winning scientists, leaders of Church and state - and that they were created by Australia's leading art its - Boyd, Pugh, Olsen and others, they would all say the most interesting and exciting faces were yours; they were once you, and one day you will be them. Take them in, by all means; but those faces closer to you matter even more.

You may think this is a place to eat; dining together is indeed an ancient tradition, but its value lies not in its mere antiquity, but in its deeper reality. The truth is, this is a place to hear things you have never heard, to meet people unlike those you have ever met, to say things you never thought yourself able to - to change your mind, make and break your heart, and inspire your soul. Eat and drink here, by all means; but what you absorb with eyes and ears and mind will be more enduring.

You may think we have brought you to the Hall - the truth is, you brought the Hall with you.  Those with whom we break bread are those who matter to us; and over dining tables ancient and modern, near and far, lasting friendships, great hopes and transformative plans have been made. Welcome to Hall - some of us worked hard to bring you what you see, but what you have brought tonight matters most of all.

Benedic, Domine, nos, cenationem nostram, 
et dona tua quae de largitate tua sumus sumpturi,
et concede, ut illis salubriter nutriti
tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus,
per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

[Bless, Lord, us, our Hall, and these gifts which we are about to receive,
and grant that whosesomely nourished by them,
we may render you due obedience,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.]

An address, followed by a special grace, welcoming resident students to the renovated Dining Hall on Wednesday October 17 2012


Towards 2022 - Trinity Seeks Needs-Blind Admissions

[From an address given at the 140th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Melbourne Museum, August 25th 2012]

Trinity can be seen as many things: a place, a tradition, a set of beliefs. But above all Trinity is people; a community, whose diversity is one of the reasons for its excellence. The faces you see around you - and of course many others we recall - are the reason we are here. Tonight, for these few hours, Trinity is right here.

Trinity is a larger and more diverse institution than at any time in its past; in addition to our residential life, the work of our Foundation Studies program, the Theological School, and Young Leaders' programs for school students all provide unique educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to fulfil their potential and impact the wider world, pro ecclesia, pro patria as our motto states.

We do this work in the context of the University of Melbourne, recently confirmed as Australia's, and indeed one of the world's, leading research universities; in that very large community, the resident students of Melbourne's colleges and not least of this one are those who most clearly enjoy an experience comparable to those of the world's leading educational institutions.

Our reality is now global, as well as local. Our students and their ambitions reflect that; and so do those of the College. But the global reality always has a local and a human face; and I invite you to meet a few of these members of your College now.

Those current and recent resident students whose faces have just seen include young people from urban and regional Australia, and from Europe and Asia. They include an indigenous Australian, and an Iraqi refugee; they are young people who are already having impacts in the arts, in scientific and medical research, and in the worlds of ideas and education, and of social service and community leadership. They all received substantial scholarship support, and all of them have had remarkable opportunities because they were at Trinity and the University of Melbourne.

Our success in bringing them to Trinity has depended on the support many alumni and friends have offered, and I thank you for that support.

But now we want to take Trinity's capacity to transform lives to a new level. We intend to take a step so far unique in Australian higher education, and to make our resident community genuinely needs-blind - that is, to offer the opportunity of Trinity's outstanding education and other experiences to the students best-qualified to benefit from it and contribute to it, regardless of their background or financial need. We wish also to increase substantially our ability to offer scholarship support in the Theological School and in Foundation Studies, to make these outstanding educational opportunities increasingly available to new generations of students from various backgrounds.

Although this cost of this vision will change historically and vary from time to time, we believe that we should be seeking to raise an additional endowment of 25 million dollars in today's terms to achieve it. I am delighted to announce that goal to you tonight, and invite you to help the College attain it.

This challenge starts tonight. My hope is that when we gather in ten years time to celebrate the sesquicentenary of the College, we will be able to celebrate this achievement and many more stories, and more faces, whose lives reflect that commitment to excellence, community and diversity which makes them, and us, Trinity.


New Haven Diary: Yale and its Colleges

For the past five months I have been living, reading, writing, conversing, and occasionally speaking publicly, in the environment of Yale University and its community of New Haven.

There are many contrasts between Yale and New Haven on the one hand and Melbourne and its oldest University and College on the other, but lots of points of recognition as well. Both parallels and differences have been useful things to observe along the way. Although most of my time has been taken up with writing projects I have been able to speak with some senior leaders, faculty, and students and acquired some sense of how they perceive the institution and the wider community.

One area of real similarity is the importance of the college system at Yale. All first year undergraduates are allocated randomly to one of twelve residential colleges (Melbourne has eleven). Although Yale is much older than Melbourne (1701 to 1854), Trinity is older than Yale's colleges which were established in 1921 in conscious imitation--like Trinity--of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Much of the college experience would be familiar to Trinity residents; although they don't wear gowns for dinner, students live and study in communities roughly comparable in size to ours, play enthusiastic intra-mural sports, get to listen and converse with leading scholars local and visiting, and the intangibles that come with this sort of experience.

During my time here I was privileged to be included in the Fellows events of Timothy Dwight College, one of the twelve. Master Jeff Brenzell was a gracious host and I was able to meet and talk with many alums, faculty and other distinguished locals who gather monthly for lectures, events and conversation.

The 'TD' Fellows and equivalent groups at the other colleges at Yale are somewhat larger and broader than Trinity's or the Oxford/Cambridge versions, and provide a sort of meeting point between the College and its wider constituency of friends. They get rich fare intellectually (and otherwise); speakers this past semester included Pulitzer Prize winning historian Debby Applegate, whose book The Most Famous Man in America tells the fascinating and verging-on racy story of leading 19th century cleric Henry Ward Beecher. Another evening with the Fellows was a privileged behind-the-scenes look at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, whose Director, Derek Briggs, is a Fellow of Timothy Dwight College.

Yale students have similar possibilities at events like "Master's Teas" which may have a close equivalent in Trinity's "fireside chats"; leading lights of academic and other spheres not only hold forth but are available for real conversation--one of the hardest things to find in the modern public university.

Of course the Yale undergraduate cohort is much smaller than Melbourne's, more like their collegiate resident counterparts in Australia. Although residence is far more normal in the USA, there is also increased reflection in this country--not  so much at Yale itself--on options for commuter and distance education models, given increased costs and the desire to make at least some version of degree-level university experience widely available. Not that Yale isn't engaged in expanding its educational horizons or distance learning, but that's for another blog. But at Yale the residential college is firmly at the heart of the experience, so much so that two new colleges are currently being built.As often in the past, I have been led to think of the collegiate aspect of the University of Melbourne's life as like that of a US liberal arts college embedded within a large public university.