Andrew Wirth

Attended Elwood High 1961-1965

"Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, Elwood High was just the school for me, a nerdy, non-sporty kid from Poland. The co-ed mixture of Aussies and migrants allowed me to stick to the more familiar 'wog ball' and better still to woodpushing (chess). 

I remember the teachers as dedicated and some, for example Mr Pittock, as inspiring. David brought the larger than life characters of Great Expectations alive. His modern literature reading list guided me for many post-school years. Heidi Earl's youthful enthusiasm also bore fruit. Some, like Miss Rowan, had a harder time of it. Her attempts to excite me about Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) succeeded only in my middle age. On the other hand, I was fascinated by the school's daring production of Ionesco's (then new) absurdist play Rhinoceros.

It was a particular delight to discover there was a fellow nerd in my Form 2 (Year 8) class. Discussions about maths, physics and Mad magazines began then and continue still. In my last school year, our physics teacher, Mr Green, when asked a question he considered to be a 'curly one', would frequently encourage Barry and me to lead the classroom discussion. This experience, no doubt, as well as the work of the many fine maths and science teachers, like Mr Will and Mr Clift, contributed to our taking up university jobs.

A Melbourne University Bachelor of Science was followed by time at Monash, resulting in a PhD and marriage to a fellow maths post-grad. An academic career culminated in teaching mathematics to engineers and research in scheduling as an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne. Lecturing classes of 300-odd engineering students was an interesting challenge; chocolate frog bribes worked a treat. But the best fun was working with PhD students and colleagues on a variety of mathematical modeling topics.

Melbourne is a town obsessed by the question, which school did you go to? In my family, "oh they went to Elwood" is considered a badge of honour. The fact that about half the class of 1965 attended the 50-year reunion suggests that this view is widely shared. I am very grateful to my Elwood teachers and fellow students for showing me the way."

Andrew joined Melbourne University's business school in 1980 and moved to engineering in 1992. He is now on an honorary appointment dividing his time between supervising a PhD student, peer reviewing and most importantly being a grandfather.