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Professor Don Campbell Scholarship Story

Professor Don Campbell - A Trinity Scholarship Story

We asked Professor Don Campbell (OTG 1972): What does it mean to get a scholarship to go to Trinity?

I got one, but I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t got one, so I can’t tell you what difference it made. I am reasonably certain I wouldn’t have been able to stay at Trinity.

At the time, I was eleven years old, and it was the beginning of Form 1 for me, now called Year 7. I had started at the school the previous year. My father was a believer in education and was convinced that Trinity was the right school for his two boys. He never expressed an opinion about the right school for his daughter, and as he is no longer around, it will be hard to ask him now.

My brother started in the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir the following year. In those days a Choir Scholarship was a full scholarship while you were singing and a half scholarship when you finished. You didn’t have to be Einstein to work out that our family income would not support two boys on full fees attending Trinity, so I thought: what can I do about it? I had a morning paper round in Grade 5 and 6, which I was allowed to do, so long as my income went into my education fund. From the one pound thirteen shillings ($3.30) I earned, I was allowed to keep one and six (15 cents) each week. 

Don Campbell with his wife, Lisa Newton

This allowed me to get a milkshake and a Weston’s Wagon Wheel each Saturday morning, until decimal currency came in and the milkbar owner put the price of a milkshake up to 12 cents, so that the 12 pence wouldn’t be rounded down to ten cents. I refused to buy a Weston’s Wagon Wheel when he did that. By the end of 1965, I had saved 75 pounds, which was the fee for a term at Trinity. One down and two terms to go for the year, but what after that? How would we afford for me to stay at Trinity? I decided to sit the scholarship exam.

I came out of the exam and my father asked me, ‘How was it?’

I told him, ‘I’ve got one, but I don’t know if I will get the full one or just a half.’

He laughed and said, ‘You might want to wait for the results of the exam before you make that sort of announcement.’ I got one, but it was only a half. Damn.

I asked my brother what you had to do to get in the Cathedral Choir. He told me that you had to sing two hymns and God Save the Queen. So my brother taught me to sing God Save the Queen in our shared bedroom, along with For all the Saints (Hymn 202 from memory in A&M) and To be a Pilgrim. I asked him when I would be good enough to pass the test, and he told me. So I went and did the test. I was pleased when I passed because it meant we would be able to afford for me to go to Trinity, and, when my voice broke I would have the half scholarship from being in the Cathedral Choir and the academic half scholarship. I was annoyed because it meant I would probably end up not playing footy or cricket as much. Choir meant practice in the cathedral five days a week and services Sunday morning and evening, and I knew I would miss out on training. I figured that was a price worth paying, but resented it nonetheless. I resented the pressure put on me to sing in the school choir as well, but that passed.

I benefited from being in the Cathedral Choir because it gave both my brother and I the opportunity to excel at something in a team environment, where I at least was only a very mediocre talent at best. I can also credit my brother with bringing an end to initiation in the choir, fortunately before my arrival. Being in the Cathedral Choir gave me the pleasure of a love of English choral music. In terms of my academic scholarship, there didn’t seem to be any expectations put on me. No one knew and no one cared, which I am extremely grateful for. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know about it. I would have been extremely embarrassed, as I think kids want to fit in more than anything.

I am telling you about this because it seems an appropriate time to point out to the Trinity community that there are many benefits from having a scholarship program, and that those benefits can have long lasting and profound effects. When Rick Tudor and Rohan Brown rang me and invited me to lunch, I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this call for over 20 years, how much do you want?’ I am pleased to have the opportunity to support, in turn, the Indigenous Scholarship Program in a very small way. I wish I understood better what we should be doing to support Indigenous education. No matter what is done, I am sure there will be many critics of any particular approach. Connection with community is of paramount importance, of this at least, I am sure.

It has been my privilege to attend Trinity and to be a member of School Council in recent years. I wanted to give something back. I encourage you as a reader to consider what you can give to our community, be it by supporting a scholarship or more broadly supporting education in whatever form appeals to you.

Supporting our children’s education and extending that support beyond our own immediate families helps us build a better, stronger community. In the end, investment in a strong community is our best investment.