Francis Ormond was a Scottish-born pastoralist, member of Parliament of Victoria, and great philanthropist in the areas of education and religion.
He used his wealth to benefit others from early on and it became the pattern of his life.
When a Working Men’s College was proposed he offered £5000 towards its establishment.
It opened in 1887 with 320 students and by 1938, the number of students was 10,000.
Later known as the Royal Melbourne Technical College, it is now RMIT University.
Max Griffiths MBE has written an authoritative book on Ormond, Francis Ormond – A Ruling Passion (Rosenberg Publishing, $29.95), which was launched recently at the Scots’ Church in Melbourne by RMIT Chancellor, Dr Ziggy Switkowski AO.
It contains new insights and information on the founding of what has become RMIT.
Griffith writes: “It says something for his breadth of vision that Francis Ormond was able to see that establishing such a college was not just to educate the working class.
“He knew that Australia was rapidly moving towards becoming a fully-fledged democracy.
“But he believed this would not be possible until the community was educated to the point of recognising that democracy required an understanding and acceptance of the responsibilities associated with it.
“People needed to grasp the political social and economic issues involved in good government before they could exercise an informed vote.
“And on an even wider scale Ormond realised that Australia would be increasingly impacted by the Industrial Revolution and this would need tradesmen and artisans capable of engaging in new industries.”
Switkowski told the launch: “Francis Ormond, Max tells us, was a self-taught man. But throughout his life he espoused the value of education and its transformative power.
“Max reminds us that Ormond was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. And despite this – or some may ponder because of this – he succeeded at times against the odds, and often in the face of opposition …
“We at RMIT have much to thank Francis Ormond for. Without his foresight, generosity, and ability to realise outcomes, RMIT would not have evolved into the global, urban and connected institution it is today.
“And I, as a custodian of the enterprise that is RMIT, and others to come after me, will continue to be guided by his values and ambitions.
“Because while RMIT has changed and evolved over the years, Francis Ormond is at the heart of who we are, and what we believe, and should always remain thus.
“For reminding us, and for resurrecting this story Max, we are similarly indebted.”
About the author
Max Griffiths has been a shop steward in the Iron Workers Union; council member of the Royal Flying Doctor Service; Superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission founded by Flynn of the Inland; a parish minister; chair of the Ormond College Students Club and later council member; a council member of Scotch College; a foundation member of the Ronald Macdonald House board; member of the Royal Melbourne Hospital Animal Ethics Committee; board member of the Austin Hospital and chair (at Austin) of the Research and Patient Care Ethics committees.