Lawry and Pam St. Leger

Education has provided more than just careers for long-time teachers and dynamic husband and wife duo Professor Lawrence (Lawry) St. Leger and Dr Pamela (Pam) St. Leger.

It has also provided them with a lifelong passion and belief that education provides a way forward for making the world a better place where people are more thoughtful, critical and reflective.

This passion has led Lawry and Pam to confirm a gift in their wills that will fund the Lawrence and Pamela St. Leger PhD Scholarship in Deakin’s Faculty of Health.

Following this important decision, Lawry and Pam got thinking about the impact of their gift and realised they would love the opportunity to see their gift in action.

And so an additional living gift was born, one that will see the very first Lawrence and Pamela St. Leger PhD Scholarship recipient selected in 2020 and financially supported until 2023.

“We believe that while you may not change the whole world, you can make a difference to someone’s world in a very small way,” Pam explained.

“Both of us have worked with graduate students and we’ve seen the difference that they’ve made to their communities and we thought, well, this might be a useful way for us to make a difference.

“We’ve seen how life can easily catch up with post graduate students – whether it’s kids or ageing parents or not having an income.

“If you can just free up some of those stressors for people – by helping them pay rent, or childcare, or whatever it may be – you’re giving them every chance to complete their PhD.”

While Pam’s expertise as a qualitative evaluator led her from a career in fashion design to teaching in secondary schools to teacher education and later as a Senior Lecturer in Program Evaluation at The University of Melbourne, Lawry’s journey from school teacher to Deakin University was less straightforward.

Lawry’s expertise as a health promotion educator, researcher and consultant led to leadership roles in the Ministries of Education and Health before he arrived at Deakin University in 1988.

Lawry speaks fondly of his time at Deakin, particularly his role as Dean of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Behavioural Sciences from 1995 to 2002 where he was a driving force behind the development of Deakin’s Faculty of Health.

“I had a lot of trust placed in me by the then Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and I had a lot of freedom, which I really valued, and good people around me who I trusted,” Lawry said.

“I also really appreciated the expectation to be creative – that’s one of the best things about Deakin, that culture of innovation among both students and staff is fabulous.” 

A unique component of the PhD scholarship is the potential for the recipient to benefit from Pam and Lawry’s 53 years of combined experience in tertiary education and research through informal mentoring.

“Both of us have spent considerable time supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students,” Lawry explained.

“It was something we really enjoyed. Sometimes when I’ve mentored, I’m not familiar with the details but it doesn’t matter – I can ask the questions and be what we call a ‘critical friend’, someone the student can talk things out with.

“We learn so much that way and if we can offer another perspective – not as official supervisors but more as an interested party – then that’s great.”

Pam and Lawry at their home in Breamlea

After lots of conversation and research, Pam and Lawry believe they have chosen the right place for their gift.

“Number one, Deakin is credible and it’s got all the infrastructure; we know the money isn’t in a fly-by-night operation,” Lawry explained.

“We also know that what sets Deakin apart from a number of other universities – and Deakin isn’t down the novice end of the pack, Deakin is moving rapidly up and with its size – is that it’s incredibly innovative.

“The place is good and the research is exciting and we can definitely see how that gives the opportunity for the gift in our wills to be used very wisely and with a lot of opportunities for growth that wouldn’t have happened without it.”

Pam and Lawry believe that conversations are key when it comes to planning for the future.

“When you put it in a positive light, people are really interested,” Pam explained.

“A number of people have said to me, ‘Oh, can you send me the information about that? I must get onto that’ because they can see the value in making a decision now rather than leaving it to somebody else.

“Having conversations with people opens up different ideas, different ways of thinking about what you might do and then you go away, and you think about it. I think that would be a really good first step – to just find out what excites you, what you’re interested in, and what might be possible.”

At Deakin, we believe that leaving a gift in your will is an investment in the future of your community that affects far-reaching change for generations to come.

If you would like to find out more about including Deakin in your will, please contact the Bequests Coordinator on 03 9244 5150 or [email protected].