Generations of ‘giving back’

Old Melburnian Michael Cotton (OM 1996) is providing financially disadvantaged students with scholarships to independent school. Read more.

Michael Cotton (OM 1996) has given careful consideration to the philosophy behind his philanthropic actions. “I’ve always thought it was important to give back,” says Michael. “I decided that, rather than having a small impact on a large number of people, I’d like to help a smaller number of people in a more transformative way. And I saw the gift of education as the best way of doing that.”

Collaborating with several friends from university, Michael established The Melbourne Foundation in 2006. With applications open to all, The Melbourne Foundation provides financially disadvantaged students with a full scholarship to an independent school. “We select students who we think will do well at the school, and who will take advantage of educational experiences available to them while they are there,” explains Michael. The Foundation has grown in recent years with additions to its Board and management team (including Sam Marks (OM 1996)). The Foundation has offered scholarships to twelve students, including five who entered Year 9 in Melbourne-based independent schools this year.

For Michael, the work of the Foundation builds on the legacy of another Old Melburnian in his immediate family.  Michael is the son of the late Professor Dick Cotton (OM 1958), who has a fellowship established in his name (see opposite). “Dad was committed to serving people, both through his role on the Old Melburnians Council and his work in medical research,” Michael says. “Reflecting on that, as I work in finance, I wanted an outlet to provide service to the community.” 

The Melbourne Foundation’s first scholarship recipient was Khuzair Rehan (OM 2010) who entered Melbourne Grammar School in 2007. “I was both excited and apprehensive about coming to the School,” Khuzair explains. “I knew this was an incredible opportunity, but I understood this was going to be a new experience, full of unknowns, and I doubted my ability to navigate it. However, the belief invested in me by The Melbourne Foundation team prompted me to push my own boundaries and surpass my own expectations.”

Khuzair was awarded the Headmaster’s Service Prize in his final year at Melbourne Grammar, as well as receiving academic awards for English and Physics. He subsequently completed a double degree in Commerce (Finance) and Civil Engineering (Honours), receiving the University Medal for Undergraduate Academic Excellence, after graduating with the highest academic record in the Engineering department. Today, Khuzair is working as a civil engineer at Aurecon – a global engineering and infrastructure consultancy.

Khuzair, along with other scholarship recipients, Evan Avtzis (OM 2012) and Cameron Warasta (OM 2017), is now also part of The Melbourne Foundation management team (who are all unpaid volunteers). “The work of the Foundation truly changes the lives of students. It’s a privilege to be part of this process and to pass on the amazing opportunity I was given,” says Khuzair. 

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