Gift lightens a student's burden

A family’s commitment to helping others has enabled a young student to focus on her studies

It was her father who first taught Judy Roach about generosity. “Always remember, you never miss out by giving,” he would say. Leslie John Westacott’s words to his young daughter helped to shape the woman she would become and even now, at the age of 86, she is still giving.

But it is in memory of her late husband, the noted philanthropist and founder of the Australian Stock Exchange, Ian Roach AO (BAgrSc 1950), and their family that she decided to fund the Ian Roach Family Scholarship. It is awarded to high-achieving students from rural or regional areas who want to study agriculture.

When Ian and Judy married in 1958, it was more than a marriage of love; it was also the union of two philanthropic families. Ian’s life was guided by the principle that you earned what you could, kept enough to live on comfortably, and gave the rest away. And he did.

The couple worked hard, raised two children in a comfortable home in Hawthorn, and quietly helped families in need by paying school fees, buying cards and even houses. They also donated generously to philanthropic institutions.

Ian Roach AO and Judy Roach

Shortly after she funded a world- class music hall for Scotch College, her late husband’s alma mater, Judy began to consider scholarships for students of agricultural science. “The music hall is beautiful but Richard, my son, pointed out that his dad wasn’t into monuments,” she explains. “That’s when I thought about doing something for agricultural science.” Ian had studied the same course at the University of Melbourne.

Jami Luhrs, who turns 21 this year and is in her final year of the Bachelor of Agriculture, was looking for a scholarship to ease the financial burden on her parents who live on a farm in western Victoria, some 370 kilometres from Melbourne. Commuting was never an option.

Jami successfully applied for the Ian Roach Family Scholarship in 2015 and has found it to be immensely helpful. “It has allowed me to focus on my studies without the concern of having to worry about part-time work to cover my living costs,” she says.

With stellar academic results Jami is just the sort of student the Faculty, with its reputation for excellence, aims to attract. Scholarships like the one provided by the Roach family enable students from regional Victoria, who might otherwise by deterred by the city’s cost of living, to attend university in Melbourne.

Interestingly, Judy never appreciated how much money her family had until Ian’s death in 2003. “When we were first married and bought a house and got a loan of 2 per cent,” she recalls, “I asked Ian if we could afford it. ‘I think we can,’ he said. You must remember that we were brought up not to waste money.”

Judy worked as a physiotherapist for most of her life and at a time when women were expected to relinquish their careers to raise children. Her mother-in-law initially disapproved but Ian was always supportive, believing that Judy’s work added to the quality of their relationship.

It’s also likely he would support her philanthropy. “I do get a bit irritated by people who do not give,” she says.

Story by Muriel Reddy. Banner image: Jami at Newman College. Photo: Stuart Winthrope.