Farewell to a beloved friend and colleague

A message from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning and Teaching), Professor Anne Cummins: This month our Students, Learning and Teaching Portfolio and colleagues across ACU have been shocked, saddened and inspired by the sudden death of our colleague and friend Michelle Fishburn.

Michelle served 18 years at ACU, first in Student Administration, then the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and more recently in the Learning and Teacher Centre. Michelle did not seek notoriety or praise - she tackled her work with intelligence and competence. There was something special about Michelle. Everyone who knew her, and they were many and varied, spoke of her kindness, generosity and openness to them. I experienced that from her too.

I say we have been inspired because Michelle’s legacy to us is a profound reminder that the most important thing in life is love. Though her life was too short, we are privileged that she modelled for us the commitment to others demonstrated by practical and generous care, the valuing of family and particularly young people, and the capacity to stay with people and ACU through thick and thin. Michelle was a realist, she recognized hard times and knew that life could be tough.  She stood with people in those times. She embodied the ACU mission and it’s our job now to live up to that too.

Photo of Michelle Fishburn.

There were many messages at Michelle’s beautiful farewell and Kevin Ashford Rowe’s eulogy is printed below.

Kevin’s eulogy

Paul, Fred and Robyn, Tracy and Steven, Michelle’s nieces and nephews, my ACU and LTC colleagues ... it has come to me, the opportunity to speak about our dear friend and colleague Michelle and, I hope, in fact I believe, that I will not be saying anything in her tribute that would have been a surprise to her or that she wouldn’t have heard before...

I chose my words ‘friend’ and ‘colleague’ very carefully and in that order. As, over the course of some 18 years or so, Michelle has been both a friend and a colleague to very many of us here today at all levels across the University. In fact, Michelle was a person who possessed that rare gift of being able to be both colleague and friend simultaneously, merging both without either blurring or confusing where the lines came and, of course, at all times showing the utmost respect for the dignity of the person. We talk at our University about the role, the value and the importance of ‘empathy in action’. Well, on reflection, I’ve realised that Michelle had been the very embodiment of ‘empathy in action’ as long as I’ve known her and, based upon the testimony of her many friends and colleagues, long before that.

But let’s not forget that as well as being empathetic, sympathetic, decent and true, Michelle was also a committed, knowledgeable and valued member of each of the ACU teams that she worked in; she was diligent and focused and a ‘hard worker’. She was also a faithful and fearless advocate for our students and our colleagues and, though she did it in her own calm, measured and respectful way, she wouldn’t let anything go until she ensured and had been reassured that every decision had been made properly, correctly and that it had given the due and appropriate consideration to the individual. And you know what, she also had this detailed, almost encyclopedic, knowledge of our policies, systems and processes and she certainly wasn’t shy about keeping me on my toes, until she was satisfied that the right action had been taken, in the right way and for the right reasons.

Paul, Fred and Robyn, Tracy and Steven, Michelle’s nieces and nephews, I’ve spoken today of a colleague who became a friend to many of us, but of course, she was so very much more to you and your shared family. Please know that we will miss her and remember her... and that wherever our individual professional and personal journeys may take us, so very many of us will be better friends and colleagues because we had that precious time with your Michelle.


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