Dr Lewis Hughes and wife Libby

When Dr Lewis Hughes, a Deakin graduate and passionate advocate for lifelong learning and education, met his future wife Libby, he immediately recognised a kindred spirit.

As they shared their life together, their enduring love of learning and appreciation for how it flows through a person’s life contributed to their strong bond.

“Libby and I firmly believe that learning is at the core of a cohesive society and that this holds true across all cultures and times,” Lewis said.

“We believe that the measure of one’s life is centred on what you contribute, not about what assets you have.”

Both Lewis and Libby had a connection with Deakin, with Libby’s tertiary education pathway having begun at Burwood Teacher’s College (one of Deakin’s antecedent institutions) and Lewis completing his Masters Degree and PhD at Deakin.

Lewis explained that the support of Deakin’s faculty staff had a major impact on both their lives, both during the period of his return to study and what has followed as a consequence.

“In large part, it is Deakin that opened the way for me, and hence with Libby, to expand our contribution to the link between lifelong learning and a cohesive society,” Lewis said.

“This was profoundly important to us as, in 2010, Libby was diagnosed with terminal cancer and received a dark prognosis. To which our response was ‘with the superb oncology support provided, we will get on vigorously with life’.

“And, with purpose in mind, we embarked upon joint research into the relationship between vocational education and training and social capital as this, at the time, had particular relevance to Libby’s interests and professional commitment.”

The couple pursued their research, travelling to Berlin in 2011 and Cadiz in 2012 to deliver research papers together at the European Educational Research Association conferences. In 2013, Libby’s inability to travel saw Lewis present in Istanbul on both their behalf.

“I fully believe that the research that Libby and I undertook together contributed to her living – with purpose and passion – another four years after being told she only had a very short time to live,” Lewis said.

During Libby’s illness, this devoted couple began to consider how their ardent belief in the power of education and strong desire to make a difference in the world could live beyond them to the benefit of future generations.

As a result, Lewis and Libby decided to become bequestors of doctoral and post-doctoral scholarships in Lifelong Learning within the School of Education, a legacy that will inspire a lasting pursuit of knowledge and desire to make the best use of knowledge as it accrues throughout life.

Their strong desire to make a difference in the world is manifested through their generous contribution to Deakin’s student and researcher body.

In advancing the knowledge that underpins lifelong learning for others, Lewis hopes to continue the legacy of his life’s work alongside Libby.

“Also, this has legacy connection to our parents Ivy and Phil Hughes and Elsie and Lindsay Craig, in whose image Libby and I have sought to contribute,” Lewis said.

“Libby and I both felt it was right that we leave a bequest to Deakin, as it was the best way to acknowledge the appreciation we both feel. And, in, many ways, supporting Deakin’s future educators fuels the continuance of our passion.

”The social capital enriching orientation of the Deakin culture is strong. The Deakin experience is what changed my view about being an educationalist —from looking at it as an implicit professional stance to becoming knowingly passionate about it. I was absolutely amazed by the feeling of family I got from Deakin and their commitment to supporting me.”

Lewis noted that his sense of being entwined with Libby is still ever-present, and in some ways more powerful now that she has passed.

“We remain united through valuing learning and its outcomes,” Lewis said.

“Through our supporting educators – researchers and practitioners – they act as ripples from a stone in the water.

“I am confident that for others to come to Deakin, they will also enhance their strength and capability in nurturing and facilitating the valuing of leaning; and with much benefit to the community.”

Dr Lewis Hughes at home in Mt Dandenong

Paying it forward

For Lewis, this generous commitment to Deakin is also a way to show his appreciation for the kindness shown to his family after his father passed away as a consequence of previous war service when Lewis was just 12 years old.

As the surviving parent, his mother Ivy set about the task of supporting and guiding the young Lewis toward adult life in the image of his father. Legacy soon stepped in, and Geoff Handbury (coincidently, another valued member of Deakin’s philanthropic family) was assigned as Legatee supporting Ivy and Lewis.

The intervention of Legacy was profoundly important, as this was a time in Lewis’ life where his stuttering could have led to a different outcome to what has evolved.

“Geoff introduced me to what it meant to be socially confident,” Lewis said.

“At the time I could barely communicate. He really guided me in finding my place and helped me to see that I could overcome my speech issues.

“I quickly learnt the value of standing on my own two feet, and what it takes to survive, thrive and contribute to society.”

On reflection, Lewis feels that the influence of Geoff Handbury, who with his wife, Helen, made substantial philanthropic contributions to society, helped build the foundation upon which he constructed his commitment to lifelong learning as the core of community cohesion.