The extraordinary life of former RMIT teacher George Alexander has produced a legacy that today helps RMIT students overcome difficulties that might stand in the way of their academic success.
George Alexander knew first-hand about life’s obstacles – and its promise. Caused through poverty to leave school at 13, the young George yearned to become a motor mechanic but his family could not afford an apprenticeship.
At 15 he left his native England for Australia where he experienced hard years in agriculture in Victoria’s Western District during the 1920s and ’30s.
He improved his lot by studying mechanics and management at night school. He attended RMIT and at 32 received the John Storey Award from the Department of Industrial Management. He later taught part-time.
His wealth came first from his invention of a system of brass hose fittings sold under the name of Neta and later from property development. In 1972 he created The George Alexander Foundation.
George Alexander was always passionate about creating opportunities for young people and also about the environment. He saw that through the George Alexander Foundation he could help young people achieve their education and employment goals and do something positive for the environment.
At RMIT the foundation provides $7,500 scholarship per year for two years for students such as Daniel Griffin, a final year Architecture student who aspires to find housing solutions for people in desperate need.
“I’m doing my thesis on the urbanisation of refugee camps,” says Mr Griffin. “I used some of the scholarship money to go to a conference in Johannesburg on building better cities, especially housing for the urban poor. Then I was able to go on to Amman, Jordan, for a meeting with Muna Buderi, Director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.”
"It was an amazing experience – and there’s no way that I would have been able to have afforded it without the benefit of the scholarship.”
According to George Alexander Foundation Program Manager Catriona Fay, George Alexander delighted in hearing that part of his wealth was being used to provide opportunities for others.
“George took a great interest in the scholarship program. He received all the comments of students and often wrote to them to offer some encouragement,” said Ms Fay. “Because of the obstacles he faced as a young man, he loved to know that his support of education was making a difference for people like Daniel.”
“Daniel’s story is inspiring. Although he is facing some health difficulties, he’s shown great determination in helping displaced people in urban camps. That’s precisely the kind of vision that George Alexander established the foundation to nurture.”