The 1970s were a formative decade at La Trobe University – a new era of educational opportunity and belief that student activism could create a better world.
Into that heady mix stepped Iris Manton. A grandmother and one of La Trobe’s earliest mature-aged students, she went on to become a life-long friend of the University and generous foundation benefactor.
Mrs Manton – who died in January this year aged 96 – started her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology in the late 1970s, initially part time, graduating with BSc (Hons) in 1986.
It was a demanding course with its share of physical challenges: field work, surveying and carrying bags of rock samples.
Deep university experience
Michael Torney, then Student Union Manager and recently retired Director of Student Services, said ‘Iris really loved her time at La Trobe’.
‘She fitted in wonderfully with all the young students, went on all the field trips and thoroughly enjoyed the whole university experience.’
So much so that she gifted her home at Tolmie, near Mansfield in the Victorian Alps, to the University.
La Trobe’s Alumni News, in a tribute to Mrs Manton, noted that ‘mature age students often have a deeper university experience than school leavers’.
This was certainly true for Iris Manton. A former deputy school principal, she ‘reveled in her study experience at La Trobe’ which she undertook primarily as an intellectual exercise.
‘When you retire you need physical, social and mental activity’, Mrs Manton said at the time.
Passion for education
Sadly, when her husband died a few years after her graduation, the couple’s plans for a long retirement together in the country were derailed.
In an act of altruism befitting a woman passionate about education, Iris Manton gifted their eight hectares bushland property at Tolmie to La Trobe.
For nearly three decades, University staff and students enjoyed the three-bedroom ‘Manton’ house for field trips, retreats and seminars and environmental research assignments.
In 2011, and with Mrs Manton’s blessing, the property was sold for $275,000 with the proceeds going towards a perpetual scholarship for disadvantaged female students.
‘I hope the scholarship will be able to assist a student who would otherwise be denied the opportunity of a tertiary education due to lack of finances,’ Mrs Manton said.
Three generations of graduates
Last year she visited the University with her family – which now comprises three generations of La Trobe graduates – to meet the first Manton Scholarship recipient, Rosol Alamare.
Ms Alamare, who arrived in Australia from Iraq in 2007 without even basic English, said she was grateful for the chance to meet Iris Manton and thank her personally.
Now an Electronic Engineering student at La Trobe, thanks to Mrs Manton’s scholarship support, Rosol Alamare faces a much brighter future.
Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar hosted the scholarship function. He said it had been an honour and privilege to meet Mrs Manton, to hear about her experience at the University, and to thank her for her generosity and support.
‘For a great woman who was passionate about the life-changing benefits of education, there could be a no more fitting legacy than to help other people,’ he said.