When the planets align

A shared appreciation for life-long learning, science and philanthropy reunites two Old Melburnians.

Gregory Lee (OM 2008) has fond memories of the day he was presented the Monash University Prize, during a Senior School Assembly in his final year at MGS. It was Dr Andrew Prentice (OM 1961) – an acclaimed mathematician who had spent more than 40 years developing a theory on the formation of the solar system – who presented the prize to Greg.

In April 2016, seven years after their first meeting, Greg and Andrew were delighted to see each other again at the MGS Foundation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM). “When I arrived at the AGM, I recognised Andrew and went straight up to thank him,” says Greg. “He is a delightful fellow and extremely mature for his years,” says Andrew.

As well as a mutual respect for one another, Andrew and Gregory share a profound appreciation for the education they received at the School.

In Greg’s final year at MGS, he saved up $3,155.00 from his part-time tutoring job to donate to the School. “I always had in my mind that I wanted to give back to the School for the things that I thankfully received,” says Greg. “The support from my teachers, the great environment that I enjoyed and the friendships that I made, were all factors in my decision.”

It was Greg’s mother, Claire, who inspired him to make a donation to the School. Upon finishing high school in South Korea, Claire donated all of her pocket money to help improve the school’s facilities. The Lee Family’s generosity does not end there – both Greg and Claire have made individual pledges to the New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign, and inspired Greg’s sister, Claritta, to contribute to the future of Science at MGS.

After graduating with an ENTER score of 99.95, Greg completed a Bachelor of Biomedicine at Melbourne University. With a guaranteed entry pathway into the Doctor of Medicine, he made an unconventional decision to complete a Diploma in Teaching before studying medicine.

“I was very interested in teaching – being part of the learning process and helping people develop. I also thought that by studying teaching, I would improve my communication as a doctor,” says Greg.

Greg’s short-term goal is to complete his final year of medical school and to progress through the training pathway to become a specialist in either cardiology or gastroenterology. In the future, he plans to combine his teaching and research skills to improve patient care.

“Science and technology has just become part of life. In light of rapid and radical changes, I think that investing in that field is a good decision. It is very important to encourage students to get exposure to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics,” says Greg.

Like Greg, Andrew Prentice is supporting future generations of Old Melburnians by donating $25,000 to the New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign in honour of the late Graham Withers, who as head of the School’s Chemistry Department, had a profound impact on Andrew’s career path.

“It was Graham Withers who really inspired me to go into science. There were some excellent teachers at that time but Graham really stood out,” says Andrew. “He had an analytical mind and could get to the nub of the matter to see what was important and then throw away what wasn’t.”

Andrew’s interest in astronomy began in the late 1950s, and coincided with the dawn of the Space Age and Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. “The School was really the launch point for what happened later in my career,” says Andrew.

After leaving School, Andrew attained a Masters of Science Degree at The University of Melbourne and was awarded the prestigious Royal Commission of the Exhibition of 1851 scholarship. While completing his Doctorate in Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oxford, he became interested in Pierre-Simon Laplace, a French mathematician who proposed a theory that the solar system had formed from the sun. However, without the technology available to prove it, Laplace’s theory was never fully accepted.

Working with computer programmes, Andrew developed a “modern Laplacian” theory about how the solar system evolved, based on a new idea of supersonic turbulence. He presented his theory to the Australian Academy of Sciences in 1973. Since then, Andrew has applied this theory to every planet in the solar system and taught Applied Mathematics to more than 20,000 students at Monash University. He was a Reader in Mathematics at Monash University’s School of Mathematical Sciences until his retirement in 2011.

“I think that philanthropy is absolutely important,” says Andrew. “I was very fortunate and that’s why I am very happy to support the School with projects like this.”

As well as honouring the legacy of Graham Withers with his generous contribution to the new Science and Technology Hub, Andrew has included a special gift to the School in his Will to support future generations of Old Melburnians, which is recognised through the Witherby Tower Society.

On 20 April, the School launched the New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign with the support of philanthropists Geoff Handbury (OM 1942), Nigel Peck (OM 1945), Alan Archibald (OM 1963) and hundreds of community members who share the School’s vision. “I am extremely pleased to share that, through the generosity of Old Melburnians, parents and friends, we have raised more than 75 per cent of our $15 million goal to date,” says Lloyd Thomas, President of the Melbourne Grammar School Foundation.

You can help spark the ingenuity of future generations of Old Melburnians by making a donation to the New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign.