Mr Alexander Sergius Eustace Horan
Alexander Sergius Eustace (Alec) Horan had already established his career in scientific research when his father fell ill in 1962 and asked him to return to the family farm in a caretaker role.
Alec held a Bachelor of Science with majors in Biochemistry and Microbiology from The University of Western Australia and was working in the Department of Bacteriology at The University of Melbourne researching typhoid for the World Health Organisation. This academic life had to be left behind with the death of his father and untimely market changes that meant the farm required his full-time attention.
Upon his arrival at the farm, a property called Wepowie located in the Northhampton area, north of Geraldton, he lost no time turning his scientific mindset from microbiology to farming. Alec was instrumental in the formation of the Northampton Farm Advisory Service, and was a founding member and Secretary of the Western Australian Association of Farm Advisory Services.
The introduction of this new, more scientific approach was inevitably met with some scepticism and resistance from locals and long-term employees who had to adapt to the new processes. Rod Menzies, a farm manager who travelled from New Zealand to work on Wepowie, described his view of how Alec approached this delicate situation “I would sometimes get frustrated with his patience with people, but as I got to fully understand how kind a person he was and how he had a genuine interest in other people’s welfare, I became accustomed to implementing strategies his way. I learnt from him that business management was really about people – doing things for and with people.”
The predictions by some locals that Alec’s lack of experience would cause him to fail as a farmer proved inaccurate when the property was eventually sold in 1997 for what was regarded at the time as record prices.
Even after the farm was sold Alec’s involvement in research continued. In addition to supporting significant research projects conducted by the Heart Foundation, Alec continued to support agricultural research. Dr John Hamblin said when he was looking for fellow contributors for funding a Ph.D. he discussed the project with Alec who “immediately agreed to jointly support this research effort, both of us in the knowledge that we were unlikely to see its fruition.” This has been Alec’s fate, and knowing the long lead times for this kind of activity likely to be John’s also.
Alec was a voracious reader, with an extensive collection of rare books focusing particularly on politics, history and biography. While science was a great passion, and one his mind was perfectly suited to, his interest in politics and society in general was just as strong. As a member of the Liberal Party he served as a division president for many years, and also served as a Director at Geraldton Guardian Newspapers for 17 years, a publication founded by Alec’s grandfather, Edward Constantine in 1906. It was because of these interests that it is fair to say that despite his accomplishments Alec regretted not having the opportunity to study Law. This was the motivation to donate funds to Notre Dame in his Will to establish The Alexander Sergius Eustace Horan Scholarship, so that someone else would have the chance to follow the dream he did not have the opportunity to pursue, even if he would never witness the changes to students’ lives his contribution would make.
Past scholarship recipient Heather Kerley summarised the difference her scholarship made by saying
Prior to receiving this scholarship I had considered deferring my studies, as the financial stress was too overwhelming – Mr Horan’s generosity enabled me to persevere and encouraged me to never give up.
Heather continued “I am so grateful for the support I received as it meant that I could afford little things like being able to go to the dentist or buy a textbook, which would have previously been a big worry for me. While there were always some financial concerns simply because I was at university and not working full time, the scholarship helped alleviate them and enabled me to focus on my studies. Although I am no Steve Jobs, I did try my best with each unit and I hope that it would have made Mr Horan proud. I was honoured to be the recipient of this scholarship and will always be grateful for Mr Horan’s kindness.”
Alec’s life can best be summed up by a final comment from Rod Menzies "Alec was one of life’s kindest and most beautiful people and truly a gentleman and a scholar. I was so blessed that he came into my life as a friend and mentor."