Lest We Forget
It all started with a question: What are the stories behind those names?
At the Monash University Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Studies in Melbourne, Australia, there’s an honor board bearing the names of students who put their studies on hold more than a century ago to fight in World War I. It also identifies the soldiers who never returned.
William Charman, then the dean of the faculty, became curious about who those men were—both as students at the Melbourne College of Pharmacy (which later became part of Monash) and as soldiers sent off to Turkey, France, and Belgium (to serve under the command of Sir John Monash). Charman’s curiosity imbued the same in leadership and staff, who embarked on what he calls a journey to research the soldiers’ lives as well as their familial ties to present-day Australia.
That journey culminated in an event in April 2019, in which the faculty awarded posthumous degrees to four former students who died in battle and recognized a fifth who returned to Australia, but later took his life due to the unbearable horrors he witnessed. Speakers at the ceremony told the men’s stories and family members received certificates on behalf of their relatives.
“Our alumni were so engaged and supportive of this project—they loved it! It was so incredibly important for our staff and students. Students today can realize that this institution recognized those who were there a hundred years ago,” Charman says. “We build upon the successes that everyone has made. Everyone counts. And it goes to the heart of what sort of institution you are.”
The remembrance ceremony, which earned a 2020 Grand Gold CASE Circle of Excellence Award for single-day events, was one facet in a program that included a booklet with essays about each soldier, bespoke art created for each family, and a 30-minute documentary about the entire process. The film shows Charman visiting the final resting places of each soldier and laying wreaths created by Monash students.
“I’ve been so fortunate in my academic and professional career to have worked with incredible teams in varied projects—this is one of the standout highlights. The emotion is what makes it,” Charman says. The project shows how the university is a “fundamental part of the fabric of the community. It was then, it is today, and it still will be in a hundred years.”
He also urges advancement professionals to look into aspects of their own institutions in the way Monash’s WWI project did.
“What’s your version? Copy it, adapt it, build on it, because there are opportunities for something like this with every [CASE] member,” he says. “What’s your empathetic opportunity to tell a story, inspire others, and bring together your whole community? You just have to explore and discover what it is."
Five Soldiers: Remembrance Documentary
About the author(s)
Bryan Wawzenek was a content creator at CASE.
Article appears in:
Community, Celebration, and Change: How traditions bridge past, present, and future. Plus, understanding how equity is central to institutions’ pursuit of social and racial justice, engaging alumni of color, and investing in alumni during trying times.