What started as an informal chat between classmates has evolved into the MLS Young Alumni Scholarship – a new initiative to support a Melbourne JD student with a disability or long-term illness.
By Melissa Stewart
Henry Dow (JD 2018, BA 2013) met Tim Gracie (JD 2018, BA 2014) in their first week at Melbourne Law School. They quickly formed a close friendship with classmates Jack Trainor (JD 2017, BCom 2014) and Josh Bridgett (JD 2017). Gracie was open about overcoming a long-term illness during his undergraduate degree and the challenges that posed during his studies.
It wasn’t until the end of their final year that discussions turned to scholarships. Gracie had received a scholarship during his time at MLS and was especially positive about the access to mentoring this had enabled.
“We were enamoured with that idea [of a positive mentoring experience],” Dow says, noting that as recent graduates, he and his friends felt they had something to offer law students early in their degrees.
When we finished law school we had no excuse not to do it, so that’s when we got in touch [with MLS].
The result of that discussion is the Young Alumni Scholarship, which will offer support for students in financial need who also have a disability or a long-term illness. Academic merit is not part of the selection criteria.
Dow hopes recipients will also benefit from a mentorship with him, Gracie, Trainor and Bridgett, and flexibly use the funds towards whatever they need – be it textbooks, housing or a laptop – to make their JD experience easier.
“The recipient might even buy a corporate wardrobe for job or clerkship interviews,” Dow says, noting this is an added expense that is rarely considered.
He hopes the Young Alumni Scholarship will send a message to the recipient: “Welcome to the Law School, you deserve to be here.”
I’d love for that sense of support to be just as powerful as any money that’s given.
Dow, who was President of the Melbourne University Law Students’ Society in 2017, says he was inspired in part by the commitment of former MLS Dean Professor Carolyn Evans (LLB(Hons) 2013, BA 2013) to philanthropy, crediting her address at the MLS 160th Anniversary Gala Dinner as particularly important.
“Seeing how committed she was to raising money for the School and for its students really struck me,” Dow says. Her words solidified his life-long belief that “you’ve always got something to give”.
Dow hopes to inspire fellow recent MLS graduates to support the Young Alumni Scholarship.
“If we can give a little bit now, then down the track it’s just a habit we’re in,” he says, adding that recent graduates are uniquely placed to offer support to law students.
“You do have so much to offer already, and not just financially. You do have great advice to give.”
Already looking to the future, he hopes the scholarship will raise enough money to support an eligible JD student in each year of their degree, as well as act as a conduit for Dow and his friends to stay connected with MLS, each other and the scholarship recipients.
“I believe we’re going to get as much out of this as the students will.”
The scholarship will be awarded to its first recipient in mid-2019.
This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 21, June 2019