Chris Fladgate

Chris FladgateI don’t know what it means to be a MADdie. I don’t even know who invented the term. But I suspect that each generation of students who are a part of the Monash Association of Debaters put their own spin on what it is to be a member of that particular club.

For me, when I was a member of MAD it was one of the biggest clubs on campus. Within the Monash Student Union, within the boozed-up Activities committee and within the office of the hallowed student newspaper Lot’s Wife, MAD, and its more prominent members, were known, or at least, well-enough known. Not bad for a bunch of debating nerds. To be a MADdie around that time meant a few things. It meant to be witty, to be entertaining, to be inclusive, to be knowledgeable, to be successful, and indeed most importantly, to be humble.

For many years, during most of the 1990s, Chris Fladgate encapsulated all of what it meant to be a member of MAD. I suppose in terms of official roles, Chris’ most prominent was the year he spent as President of MAD. Along with that, for many years Chris served on the MAD committee in a number of roles. Possibly, his most famous among these was as External Officer, when Chris was responsible for liaising with the other university debating organisations, and ensuring that MAD’s debaters were registered for and booked in to travel to, the various intervarsity debating tournaments. Many a tournament wouldn’t have been won, or indeed attended, if it weren’t for Chris.

But I dare not paint Chris out as a non-debating debater. While it’s true (or at least so I’ve been told) that Chris originally did more administrating and adjudicating than debating at Intervarsities when first joining MAD in the early 1990s, his skills as a debater were highly acclaimed. I had the distinct pleasure of debating with Chris in two Australasian tournaments, and making the semi-finals both times. When Chris debated with you, he always gave you a shot at winning. He pushed you in every round and made you become a better debater yourself as the tournament progressed. There’s no coincidence in the fact that a number of MAD’s Worlds and Australasian champions debated at some stage with Chris Fladgate. It’s true that Chris never won either an Australasian or World Intervarsity tournament himself, but he was stiffed on many occasions. Plus, the romantic in me likes to think that the standards were at an all-time high in those days. Either way, Chris was, or is, at his peak as good a debater as I’ve ever seen, and I’d have him on my team any day.

But it’s more than these qualities that made Chris so special to MAD – more than his skills as a debater, more than the efforts he put in to running the club, and more than his role in ensuring that tournaments were attended without a hitch or a halter. It was Chris the human being that was the greatest contribution that MAD received. Chris was one of the most ‘giving’ people I came across in my time at university, and certainly within MAD. Chris developed through developing others. Chris enjoyed others’ enjoyment. Chris was always there to offer a wise word, a knowing look, or a consoling beer. He was the father, the older brother, the mentor and the master of many of us who went through MAD. He was enormously respected within MAD, more so than anyone I ever saw come through the club in my time. Not idolised, worshipped or fawned over, but respected. And as they say, that level of respect is never given, it’s earned.

Chris earned his respect ten times over. He has always been a fun, caring, considerate, intelligent, hard-working, dedicated, and committed member of the Monash Association of Debaters. It was a great pleasure over my time at Monash to spend many fine times with Chris and to come to regard him as a great mate. It was also a pleasure, way back when, to nominate him as a life member of the club. If memory serves, the motion was passed unanimously. Every person in the room that day recognised the enormous contribution that Chris had made to them as members of the club. I hope that this record goes someway towards present and future members also recognising that MAD wouldn’t have been the success it has been without Chris Fladgate.

Nominated by Daniel Celm
October 2004