Three Melbourne alumni in New York continue their relationship with the University through scholarships
Melbourne-raised Frank Azzopardi moved to New York City in September of 2001, a little more than a week before terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. It was a terrible time, but one that bonded him to the city and its people.
“Whether you’ve been here five minutes, five years or your whole life, everyone almost instantly feels a connection to the city and everyone finds a community,” Frank says.
“In New York, people are completely agnostic as to where you’re from,” he adds. “It’s all about merit and what you bring to the table.”
Now a partner at renowned international law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell in Manhattan, Frank is part of a tight-knit group of Melbourne Law School alumni that have made the Big Apple their home.
Frank, Matt Edmonds and Malcolm Price are on the board of the University of Melbourne USA Foundation, which raises funds for scholarships and experiences that facilitate the exchange of students between Australia and the US.
“They’re both wonderful human beings,” Frank says of his fellow alumni. “Matt is one of my great friends in the city and Malcolm is just a tremendous role model for any Melbourne student who’s looking to have a successful career in the US.”
Frank himself is one of eight Australian partners at his firm.
“Australians tend to do well in the legal market here because there’s almost an inbuilt pragmatism and commonsense approach to practice,” he says. “And one of the things that Melbourne graduates should never take for granted is just how internationally renowned the institution is, especially the Law School.”
All three have also donated to law scholarships to support a new generation of Australian legal scholars. Matt established the JAMAKEPE Foundation Scholarship, which supports a Melbourne Law School student undertaking an exchange program in the US.
Malcolm and his wife, Catherine, founded the Price Scholarship, which awards assistance to law students from regional Australia.
Frank and his wife started the Frank and Nicole Azzopardi Scholarship, which supports an Indigenous Australian student.
Frank was motivated to start the scholarship to give back to the University program that changed his life. Born in Malta, Frank migrated with his family to Melbourne’s northern suburbs when he was a one-year-old. He says he never dreamed that someone of his financial background could make it into such a prestigious university.
“The idea of going to Melbourne University just seemed elusive given my circumstances and the quality of my high school,” he says. “But I just persisted and worked hard and just kept raising my expectations in terms of what might be available to me.”
He adds: “The day I got accepted into the Law School was really the first day of the rest of my life. It really did completely change my whole trajectory in life and just opened up a world of opportunities for me.”
After completing a Law/Commerce degree, Frank backpacked through Europe, where he met Nicole, a recent law school graduate from Philadelphia. Several years later, they moved to New York.
He says his success at Davis Polk has allowed him to give back to the school that gave him so much.
“One of the principal reasons I wanted to do law was to be in a position where I could help people and give something back,” he says.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my career because not only do I get to do this amazing work for this great law firm but I also get to leverage those skills and give back to the greater good.
Frank serves on the Board of Directors of Pro Bono Net, a non-profit organisation that helps low-income people access legal help. He is also part of the Global Lawyer program, where University of Melbourne students brought to the US can visit Davis Polk and learn about job opportunities.
He says his work with the University of Melbourne USA Foundation has kept him connected to the University community, and he wants to see it continue to flourish.
“Academic institutions in Australia are facing decreasing government funding and they don’t have the historical underpinning of philanthropy that really sustains the US academic system,” he says. “So, we’re trying to change mindsets and help the University out so it can maintain that reputation of pre-eminence.”
Frank says he hopes his scholarship will provide students like him with a degree that could change their lives.
If I can help just one or two students stay the course over their legal education, and provide them with the idea that someone believes in their talent, believes in their career and is willing to support them, that’s tremendously gratifying to me.