Vale after 63 years of service: Michael Collins Persse

September 27 2018 

More than 2000 people gathered at Geelong Grammar School's Corio Campus on 27 August for a memorial service celebrating the life of Michael Collins Persse MVO OAM, who had spent an astonishing 63 years at the school.

The Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau ACA, read a message from HRH the Prince of Wales. During the period the Prince spent at GGS's Timbertop campus, Mr Persse had been his history tutor, and a warm friendship had developed between them.

In 1993, after 48 years of teaching and mentoring at least 10,000 pupils in English and History, Mr Persse gave up full time teaching and became the school's curator.

Delivering a eulogy for Mr Persse, principal Rebecca Cody said: "The longer Michael was at Geelong Grammar, the longer our community came to admire his remarkable capacities. We stand in awe of his altruism, wit and erudition: with a genius memory that wove the characters, families and sub-plots of our community together, Michael lovingly and generously curated our School’s history with distinction. Partly an academic pursuit, yet mostly a benevolent nurturing of individual relationships, his prodigious multi-generational impact brings a divine energy to our sense of identity....

"Through making people visible, Michael knew and honoured the value of this for us all: he saw us; remembered our birthdays (an act he explained as an expression of joyous celebration that this person exists); he wrote to us; and mostly, he shone a light on the possibilities within by connecting and reconnecting people to the wonderland where they belong."

In his homily, Senior Chaplain Lingard Gordon stressed Mr Persse's deep Christian faith, and spoke of their final sharing of Holy Communion in St John of God Hospital.

"Those who embrace this promise [Jesus' promise of eternal life] emanate… a calm, a peace, a joy, a light and energy of mind and spirit that is tangible. It lingers, stays with you like the aroma of a long-lasting perfume.

"I went into the hospital to serve Michael but left having also been served by him.

"This is a hallmark of those who have eaten of this Jesus bread and drunk of this Jesus wine. It is in them, flowing through them and generously and graciously shared with all kinds of people… absolutely everybody. It is infectious, attractive and a cause for thankfulness and gratitude.

"Michael was a faith-full servant who lived in the light of eternity.

"Out of his being given much Michael gave much in return has been a blessing to many… in so many ways."