A gift for the vets of tomorrow

11 October 2016

In veterinary circles, Emeritus Professor Marshall Edwards AO (DvetSc '79, Ph.D (Vet Science) '70, BVSc '49), known to everyone as Marsh, is a name with huge recognition factor. Now his wife Marcia has made a gift in his name for Pave the Way.

"I realised this was an opportunity to do what Marsh would have loved to have done," Marcia says as she remembers the man who was helped by a scholarship while he himself was a student. "He was able to do what he did because of help from someone else."

Marsh, who sadly passed away four years ago, was widely recognised for his veterinary achievements as well as for being Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science from 1978-79 and again during a time of tremendous change, from 1986-94.

He was also known internationally for an observation that had a profound influence on outcomes for human babies. After an intense heat wave, Marsh noticed that a group of guinea pigs he was observing had a very high rate of birth defects.

A tireless researcher, Marsh began looking at what happened with the guinea pigs and was able to establish that birth defects could be caused by heat stress. The relevance for humans was picked up by the wider medical community and Marsh became a world authority on the subject, acting as a consultant to organisations including the World Health Organisation and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1994, he became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

Marcia is obviously incredibly proud of all these achievements, but she also remembers their early years together in the 1950s, when Marsh was a hard working country vet in Western Australia.

"There were only five vets outside the city, back in the day in WA," Marcia says. "Marsh might travel from Bunbury to Albany to do a call, and come back again. He could be driving for eight hours a day."

At that time, most of Marsh's work was as a large-animal vet helping farmers keep their stock healthy and productive. As food security becomes a bigger priority around the world, Marcia wants her gift, which will create the Professor Marshall Edwards AO Scholarship, to help students who might also want to do this vital, specialist work.

For Marcia, the gift is a natural extension of Marsh's whole-hearted dedication to his students, many of whom are now prominent members of the veterinary profession, including the current Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, Professor Rosanne Taylor (Ph.D (Vet Science)'88), BVSc '82, DipVetClinStud '83, CertEdStud '02).

"Marsh was a warm, compassionate fatherly figure in the faculty," Professor Taylor remembers fondly. "We learnt a great deal from observing his ways of being a teacher, scientist and leader."

As the scholarship becomes a reality, Marcia is glad that it will help students through their studies, "I just thought it was something I could do," she says matter-of-factly. It also echoes her husband's favourite motto: Chance favours the prepared mind.

Marcia's contribution for Pave the Way is just one of the gifts coming from across the University community. Every gift matters because every extra dollar makes it possible for more incredible things to happen. Give to Pave the Way now.