At 21 years old, in the late summer of 1965, Bruce McDonald embarked on his first proper job at Swinburne Technical College. A bit nervous, he was assigned to teach accounting, law, and economics, aware that the classroom was full of students almost his own age – in many cases older.
Offering words of encouragement was departmental head, Lewis Jenkins. Half a century later, Bruce still remembers what he said,
“Don’t worry about it, Bruce. They might be older than you, but you know a lot more than them.”
That’s what Bruce needed to hear.
More than 50 years later, Bruce counts some of those early students – and many more who came later – as lifelong friends; including Swinburne’s former Chancellor, Graham Goldsmith.
“Often relationships with Bruce started with him being your lecturer in accounting – it certainly did with me in the early 80s,” says Graham.
“He is respected and admired because he is a true friend, passionate about his family and friendships, and true to his word.”
A rich career
Bruce’s passion for people and teaching didn’t go unnoticed. He rose through the ranks at Swinburne, first becoming a Lecturer in 1968 and then a Principal Lecturer of Accounting in 1974. By 1986, he became the Head, Department of Accounting.
Later, he would become an Associate Dean, Promotions and Development in 1993, and Director, Alumni and Promotions in 1997 – holding that position until 2009.
After a two-year break, Bruce returned to the Advancement team as a Senior Philanthropy Advisor from 2011 up until March 2023.
His vast knowledge of Swinburne’s evolution helped him become the architect and builder of one of the university's great strengths – its international network of former students and staff.
Thanks to Bruce’s foundational work, there are now over 200,000 people in Swinburne’s alumni network across 163 countries.
The battle for university status
His knack for building bridges beyond Swinburne’s boundaries didn’t go unnoticed. In the late 1980s, Iain Wallace – then the director of Swinburne Institute of Technology – came to him with a proposition.
Swinburne was pursuing university status and had acquired the site of a former school in Mooroolbark, in Melbourne’s outer east. The plan was to turn it into an additional university campus, and he wanted Bruce’s valuable help.
Bruce took on the challenge, and led what was a long and often gruelling period of negotiation with planning authorities, all while meeting politicians of every persuasion.
The Eastern campus officially opened in April 1992, with Bruce as its head. In July of that year, Swinburne become a university. It was not just a day for celebration for Bruce, but one of vindication.
Within a few months, Bruce faced a new mission – the running of the university’s newly created Department of Alumni and Development.
Honouring Bruce’s work
Across all areas and many years at Swinburne, Bruce made a positive impact.
“He always put Swinburne first in his work activities and engaged passionately with alumni across all faculties, but especially Business and Accounting,” said Graham Goldsmith.
In 2016, he was one of just five Swinburne staff to receive a Vice-Chancellor’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Through the generosity of the Accounting Futures Fund donors, the University will rename the Swinburne Accounting Alumni Scholarship. In appreciation of Bruce McDonald’s dedicated service to Swinburne University of Technology, it will be named The Bruce McDonald Accountancy Alumni Scholarship.
Through the years
In celebration of his time at Swinburne until his retirement last year, here are some photographs of Bruce McDonald through the years.