A Life of Achievement

A Life of Achievement

Scholarships opened a whole new world to Vera Vines (Hanly, 1941) but what she didn’t know was the intergenerational transformation it would have on her family.  

Vera’s first scholarship was to Melbourne Girls Grammar, which was called Melbourne Church of England Girls Grammar School (MCEGGS) at the time. She commenced in 1937 and graduated in the Class of 1941.  

In her first year, she was awarded the St Joan’s House Honour prize for her scholarly achievements. The following year she shared the Jessie Nott Memorial Scholarship for Music with her life-long friend Berres Mogensen.  

Her last scholarship was the first-ever Gilman Jones Scholarship to be awarded. The Gilman Jones Scholarship was established in 1942 by donations from Old Grammarians who wanted to honour their recently retired headmistress, Miss Gilman Jones. 

Vera after her first year at Melbourne Girls.

The scholarship, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2022, is awarded each year to the School’s highest achiever/s who have also given service to others, to assist their study at university. 

Vera’s youngest son, Richard, says his mother’s experience at MCEGGS and her subsequent scholarship to the University of Melbourne launched her into a life of academic endeavours and inquiry and travel. 

She studied a Bachelor of Science (chemistry and biochemistry) and later a Masters in Biochemistry at Melbourne University before working for the University under the late Professor John Turner. This was an amazing feat since Science was very much a male-dominated area of scholarship at the time. 

Vera then spent time in Oxford, where she worked in Oxford University’s Botany Department, married her husband of 54 years Robert (Bob) Vines and had their first child, David, before returning to Australia and having three more children. 

The mother-of-four then became a Senior Science, Chemistry and Religious Studies Teacher at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School for seven years. 

In 1970, after having first developed a deep interest in Art History ten years earlier, Vera returned to the University of Melbourne to commence an Arts Degree.  By 1983 she had completed a PhD on 15th-century Flemish panel painting and had also become a lecturer and tutor in the University’s Fine Arts Faculty under the leadership of Professor Margaret Manion 

Vera with Professor John Turner in 1984 at the conferring of her PhD at the University of Melbourne. 

Throughout the 1970’s and ‘80s she travelled widely – sometimes solo, sometimes with Bob or Margaret Manion, to pursue her scholarly interests. These travels and her scholarship led to the publishing of two books: Mediaeval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts in Australian Collections (Margaret Manion and Vera Vines, 1984); as well as in New Zealand Collections (Margaret Manion, Vera Vines and Christopher de Hamel, 1989).

Vera continued to teach Art History at Melbourne for many years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in 1995. She lived with the disease until her passing in October 2002. 

Richard said his mother’s life of learning and adventure, which was first nurtured at MCEGGS, influenced not only himself, David and their other siblings Robyn and Elizabeth but all their children – Sam, Alexander, Louis, Edward, Phillippe, Megan, Robert, Emily and Ashley – as well. 

But it is Vera’s four children whose lives were most influenced by the transformational scholarships she received.  

“Robyn and Elizabeth grew up with a sense that education could unlock a life of possibility for them, and both my sisters have contributed significantly to their chosen careers of psychology and heritage architecture,” Richard said. 

“David has spent his entire life in the university system, including a multi-decade appointment at Oxford University as an International Economist with long-standing connections to the Australian National University in Canberra. 

Vera and Bob with their children – Robyn, David, Elizabeth and Richard.

“In my own case, I first trained in Forest Science and then zig-zagged through a career of at least seven completely different parts. 

“But always Vera’s sense of inquiry and respect for the role of rationalism, scientific endeavour, decency and fairness in contemporary life – the outcomes of her education – were not far below the surface.

“The opportunities available to our mother, combined with her discipline in making the most of all things, is something we all have grown increasingly grateful for.

“But always Vera’s sense of inquiry and respect for the role of rationalism, scientific endeavour, decency and fairness in contemporary life – the outcomes of her education – were not far below the surface.” 

Richard said if it were not for Mr Mansfield, a primary school teacher in Vera’s hometown of Birchip, his mother’s life and those of her children and grandchildren would have been significantly different. 

“She (Vera) certainly transformed our lives,” he said. 

“If it was not for a very dedicated primary school teacher who saw it as his job to look out for some of the better students, and who placed a number of them in schools like Melbourne Girls Grammar, it might have been different.” 

Vera and Bob (centre) with their children and grandchildren in 1995.

The Vines siblings have made a great effort to ensure the next generation of their family is aware of Vera’s fortunate life and the opportunities her education rendered to all of them.    

Vera was the first recipient of the Gilman Jones Scholarship and was followed by numerous other amazing women who have graduated from Melbourne Girls Grammar. Many of these women have had their lives also shaped by the scholarship, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2022.  

To mark this significant anniversary the School has created a special book titled “Gilman Jones Scholars”. It celebrates the legacy of Miss Gilman Jones, epitomised in the lives of these scholarship winners from 1942 – 2022, including Vera, over the last 80 years. You can buy a copy here: https://www.trybooking.com/BXMAQ