FAREWELL MICHAEL COLLINS PERSSE

"His immense contribution throughout his lifetime to scholarship and humanity will long be remembered, and will no doubt act as an inspiration and a beacon to those who follow in his footsteps." – HRH The Prince of Wales, 2011

 

Michael Collins Persse has been remembered fondly as a “legendary schoolmaster” and “national treasure” following his death on Monday 25 June. He was 86 years old (born on 10 November 1931).

Geelong Grammar School was Michael’s life work. Having graduated from Balliol College, Oxford University, with a Master of Arts (Honours in History and Theology), Michael joined the GGS staff in November 1955. For the next 63 years, Michael served our School community with distinction, becoming a dear friend and mentor to many. He was Head of History for 40 years, edited The Corian from 1966-1992 (described by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria as “surely the most idiosyncratic and eccentric school publication in the land”), developed the School’s Archives and was appointed Curator of the School in 1994. To celebrate GGS’s centenary in 1957, he wrote the pageant play, Their Succeeding Race. It was later published as a book; the first of many that Michael authored, co-authored or edited, including Well-Ordered Liberty: A Portrait of Geelong Grammar School, 1855-1995, the first volume of the School’s biographical register Geelong Grammarians, 1855-1913 and In the Light of Eternity: Selected Writings. The Michael Collins Persse Archives Centre was established in 2005, Michael became one of three inaugural Old Geelong Grammarian Fellows in 2006, and he received an Order of Australia Medal in 2017 for his service to education and history.

Our School was blessed to have known Michael’s wisdom and generosity, his boundless loyalty and affection for our community, along with his extraordinary gift for connecting with people, and recounting moments and milestones. His contribution to and curation of our School’s story, spirit and character have been remarkable. “He became an embodiment of the School – no School function was properly attended unless Michael was there, no School publication was complete without a contribution from Michael,” Times obituarist and long-time friend Mark McGinness wrote. “He took to writing to every boy and girl in the school for their birthday, every letter handwritten in fountain pen and at least 100 words long. A prodigious correspondent – he was estimated to write 3,000 letters a year. One of his correspondents was the Queen herself.” 

Michael was Prince Charles's History tutor during his two terms at GGS in 1966 and he developed a close relationship with HRH. He attended the Prince's investiture as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969, his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981 and his 50th birthday party at Buckingham Palace in 1998. In 2015, the Queen appointed him a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) for his services to the Prince of Wales, who presented him the medal in Sydney.

Rest in peace Michael.

Christus Nobis Factus Sapientia