It’s the tale of two country kids. One an aspiring Olympian, the other a champion in business. While they’ve travelled very different paths, it was Swinburne that brought them together.
Matt Ward (Fish to his friends, for obvious reasons) is no stranger to a full schedule. He’s been a swimmer for over a decade and quickly moved into competition not long after first taking to the water, soon breaking national records. Not bad for the kid who was born missing 90% of his left hip and only took up the sport because others caused him pain.
Offered a place in the Victorian nationals squad after finishing high school in 2015, Matt made the move from his home town of Albury, NSW to Melbourne where he decided to pursue a Bachelor of Computer Science at Swinburne, in between daily 5am training sessions and working as a swim instructor and piano teacher.
Around the time Matt was learning to swim, Keith Irvine OAM was finishing up as President of the Epworth Board of Management, another milestone in a distinguished career characterised through ongoing service to community health and social welfare.
Holding a Swinburne Graduate Diploma of Accounting, Keith has been a long time supporter of the university with his first gift coming in 2005. His focus quickly turned to assisting students from the country. ‘I was born in the country. I left at the age of 15 and a half and didn’t have the opportunity to go on to tertiary study.’
Since moving to Melbourne, Matt’s swimming career has made great strides; he made a qualifying time for the 2016 Paralympics that placed him within the top 10 in the world, and in 2017 broke his long course 50m breaststroke record. But with this success comes the constant pressure of staying at the top. For Matt, receiving one of the three Keith Irvine Student Achievement Awards came at just the right time.
‘[The award] came around exam time when I had just travelled to Brisbane for a meet and then short course nationals shortly after. It alleviated a lot of the stress about expenses so I was able to focus on the exams and swimming and not have to worry about the stuff in between. I didn’t have to choose one or the other.’
But it didn’t just mean money.