Dr Jack Ayerbe (1965, left) and Frank Opray (1965, right) met when they were 14 when Frank joined Jack at Wesley College in 1960, their friendship was cemented through their time together at Queen’s.



My first impression was that he had a very good sense of humour, it was his personality; we just got on. We became very close because we both swam competitively.

He didn’t have a nickname, he was always Opray.

We both went on to Melbourne University. It was a natural progression in those days that if you were going to go to Melbourne University and you wanted to board, you went to Queen’s College. It was all male and I think the place is better now for being co-educational but the three years I had at Queen’s were the most wonderful years of my life and Opray is very much part of that.

We spent many hours together. On a Saturday night for instance we would go to someone’s room, have a dozen bottles of those longneck beers and set the world right. We didn’t have any money, so that’s how we enjoyed ourselves.

The culture there, because there were theologs, was far more respectful than other places. I think Queen’s taught us a lot about respect for women. We learned a lot about challenging conventional wisdom, this was what it was all about, those talks over beer at night.

The other thing was we learned to appreciate other courses, that was the great thing about Queen’s. The bloke I shared my rooms with was doing law so we would chat about law and Frank would talk about things commerce. That side of things was absolutely fantastic.

Opray was always ahead of us because his father had the Ford dealership in Mildura so he had a beautiful modern car and we all had these broken-down bangers, he was much smarter, drove clean cars while what we had was just dreadful by comparison.

Frank’s obsession with detail can be annoying. I don’t do detail in any way, shape or form, so sometimes I’ll ask him a question then half an hour later I’ll be wondering what the question was. But having said that, that same detail has allowed me to escape many, many problems over time. When I’ve been on committees with Opray, he has supplied the detail, which I could never have done, to back up my arguments. We’ve worked as a brilliant team together. Mainly the work has not been done by me. I don’t think he minds that. The other thing that intrigues me is the fact that I’ve always regarded myself as a good writer but, unfortunately, Opray is a better wordsmith than me; that does annoy me.

It is a very competitive relationship, I regard him as one of my closest friends, and we speak most days.  We are both still involved with Wesley and Queen’s and a few other things. I still seek his advice on issues that he mightn’t even be involved in. He is a driving force for my role at Queen’s. I’m Patron of the Sugden Society but nothing would happen if it wasn’t for Frank. He drives that, his ability to get things done is amazing. I might come up with some ideas but Opray is the one who drives it. I think the outcome is improved because of that synergy.

The other thing I really admire about him is his ethics. In our work through various things, he has been driven ethically, sometimes to his own cost in popularity, but he’s been proven to be right in the end and that to me is a wonderful thing for a person to have. He will put his ethics and his financial responsibilities above any personal gain.

He had a marriage breakdown, he’s still very good friends with his ex-wife, he has four delightful children, these things happen. That really knocked him around for a bit. He doesn’t talk about his challenges much, he copes with them by moving on to the next thing. He notes it was bad it happened then he will move on very quickly and doesn’t dwell on things. I’ve never heard him complain about times when people treat him badly, he will come back and speak to people who might have done him some ill will and deal with them matter-of-factly.

If I could have any of his skills it would be to improve my ability with detail. Even my own finances, I hate dealing with money, as a veterinarian I hated charging people.

He’s taught me how to cope with adversity, not envying people who might have been more successful than you or had more money, that’s what Frank has taught me.

He knows he can ring me at any time, which he does. Sometimes we stay over at one another’s homes and we can chat all night over various issues, now we have changed to solving the world’s problems over wines rather than beers.

He avoids any clashes. We have never locked horns. I avoid conflict at all costs. There’s not been anything that we disagree on, we have had different views but we’ve worked them out. I don’t think we would ever lock horns. Even if we were both courting the same lady, one of us would back off for the other, it wouldn’t be an issue.

Every year we go to Mildura for Queen’s for a few days and it’s terrific, we chat in the car, we chat at night, have some interesting experiences. Queen’s is a very important part of our lives.

I value his friendship, he is a very close friend. I need him from day to day, I miss him when I am away. I’m privileged to have him as a friend.



We both found ourselves on the school swimming team together. He is very competitive, his swimming continues. We are both now 78, we are born within days of each other and he still swims at 5.30am five mornings a week in the open air in Geelong, summer and winter. He swam for the University of Melbourne in the World University Games, representing Australia.

We went through Wesley, swimming, cadets, prefects, great mates then both ended up at Queen’s at the same time in 1965, so the story continued on and it’s continued on since. Both of us have been intimately involved in the alumni structures of both Wesley and Queen’s and still are and continue to work, hopefully effectively in both institutions.

We had a commonality of spirit and humour and sense of creative sarcasm, all those things that attract people, and that’s continued to this very day. We are very good at abusing each other without either taking offence. Some people, when they hear us in full flight roll their eyes somewhat thinking, ‘What’s going on here?’ But it’s all in good fun and so it continues on.

Both of us coming to Queen’s certainly cemented the relationship and has led to us continuing our volunteer and professional roles here. He is the Patron of the Sugden Society and I’m effectively the Executive Officer of the Sugden Society, which is the bequest programme. So, we work very, very closely, and I like to think creatively on that, on getting people to think seriously about how they can support the College in that way. So, it’s been both a friendship and a fruitful professional relationship as we’ve grown. Certainly, the Queen’s thing has aided and abetted that.

We have pursued very different careers but he’s always been very interested in what I do in the educational philanthropy area. So that’s been part of the glue if you like.

He continually tells anyone within earshot that he does not do detail. He continues to tell the same audience, if you want detail, go and see Opray. So, to a large extent, I pick up the mess that he leaves behind….no, I pick up the trails of creativity that he creates, if he thinks of a good idea. He doesn’t have many bad ideas, most of them are considered, worthwhile. Not all of them are achievable with finite resources. Generally, they are all pretty sound, with Opray doing the detail of course. He comes up with ideas and dispenses them to whoever happens to be standing in front of him, which is often me. I don’t find that an annoyance as much as a quirk.

I call him Corporal Ayerbe. In our cadet days we were Sergeant and Corporal. I was the Sergeant so he therefore reported to me. At public events I don’t let the audience go away without realising I was the Sergeant and he was the Corporal.

His best qualities are his considerable interest in and compassion for people; he is concerned about how they’re travelling, how he might intervene and be helpful and useful. That’s a strong part of his compassion and it flows into his professional life too. I’ve often heard him on the phone talking to a client with a sick dog.

There’s certainly been times when I’ve sought his advice. When I was going through a divorce and things have been tough for me he has been a good man to confide in, without necessarily seeking compassion myself. There are not many people I do confide in, in quite that way.

My family were in the Ford business so I had privileged access to whatever the latest might be, he was forever ribbing me about the fact that there I was in the latest Cortina of the day and he was driving around in something that resembled a beaten-up Humber or something, but I took no umbrage.

When we both became single it brought us closer together. He never meets anyone without mentioning his late wife in the first 10 minutes, that’s something he leads with so people know and understand where he’s coming from. He wears that very much on his sleeve. Conversely, I don’t talk about my former matrimony but he’s understanding of that and continues to get on very well with my former wife, they are still quite close. The whole process probably brought us closer I think, we are both now on our own and by virtue of what has been going on in the two institutions we’ve found ourselves working more and more together on a range of fronts, which has been interesting and fruitful.

He has a strong sense of service and public duty beyond the organisations that we’ve mentioned, that flows across the veterinary structure, the CSIRO where he’s been invited in as a specialist advisor on various committees. He’s long served on that. Working now in an advisory capacity at the Baker Institute, bringing a veterinary perspective to the development of new drugs. His interest and involvement in school administration through The Geelong College, his involvement with what was then the amalgamation of the Newtown Council which became a part of the City of Greater Geelong Council. He is shoulder to the wheel in civil service which is really, really quite admirable. It just comes through in all sorts of ways.

Long may the relationship remain.



Welcome to our new column – The ties that bind.
Strong bonds are formed between people in our community. ‘The ties that bind’ column is an opportunity for us to share these stories. If you have, or know of someone who has, a strong connection with someone from the Queen’s College community, please let us know via email at wyverns@queens.unimelb.edu.au

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