Victor Finkel

Victor FinkelVictor’s debating record is unquestionably impressive. His achievements speak for themselves: Australs Grand Finalist, Worlds Grand Finalist, Australs Best Speaker, Worlds Best Speaker and ultimately, in his final tournament, World Champion. At his best Victor is the most eloquent speaker that many of us in the club have ever seen, a natural orator who can calmly and rationally demolish an argument without ever seeming aggressive or out of control.

However, it is misleading to suggest that debating success came easily for Victor. He broke at his first major tournament in his third year of debating, ranking 55th at Australs. It was not until his fourth and fifth years in MAD that he started raking in the Best Speaker prizes that were to become the norm. The often overlooked reality of Victor’s success is that he simply worked harder than anyone else. He attended every single matter session run by the club, bringing his trusty notebook along to take notes. He organized countless practice debates, coffees with old hacks and even infamously a matter camp at his beach house in Portsea to improve his debating. Victor never took his natural talent for granted, which is why it was only a matter of time before he won the recognition he deserved.

However, Victor’s debating success is about more than the prizes that he won. Victor is the perfect role model for new debaters, because he always debated in the right spirit. He would never dream of criticizing a teammate for a bad speech. He would always seek feedback from his adjudicators, even if a contentious decision went against him. Despite a remarkably well-developed ego, he would always go out of his way to share the credit for his individual speaker prizes with his teammates. Victor exemplifies what it means to be a good teammate, which is why it was an absolute privilege to debate four Australs with him.

The legendary MAD Life Member Martin Sorensen, who sadly passed away in 1993, was famous for taking a personal interest in helping everyone in the club improve their debating skills, irrespective of how talented they were. Victor embodies the Martin Sorensen spirit. He was a superb team leader at Easters who took an almost paternal interest in helping his teammates improve, as I have no doubt that Jacqui, Lester, Mel and Ali can testify. While he was justifiably mocked for his excessively long adjudications on MAD training nights, Victor’s passion for coaching always spurred him to go above and beyond what he needed to do to build up the confidence of younger members of the club. He even created a secret database to ensure that younger members of the club were receiving the training and debating opportunities they needed to improve. Victor cared about more than his own personal success- he always cared about Monash doing well.

Service to the Club

Victor’s remarkable record of club service is a further reflection of his dedication to MAD. After taking on the difficult role of Schools Training in 2006, Victor was elected MAD President in only his third year at the club. However, his exceptional leadership qualities quickly shone through. Under Victor’s leadership, MAD sent its largest Easters and Worlds contingents in club history, hosted the Australian Women’s Debating Championships and organized an extremely successful Public Debate. Victor returned to the Executive in 2010 and introduced a comprehensive streamed training program, which has immeasurably improved our member training, as well as introducing a public speaking program aimed at ESL speakers.

However, Victor’s most memorable committee achievement was his role as Convenor of Monash Australs 2009. MAD had last hosted Australs in 2000 and Victor had to overcome serious doubts within the club about whether we would be capable of hosting over 400 delegates in Melbourne. However, his tireless work and resilience in the face of major setbacks, such as losing the bid for the 2008 tournament, was critical to ensuring that the tournament went ahead. Without Victor’s drive, vision and tenacity, there is no way that Monash Australs would have been the success it was. And Victor’s exceptional leadership, his ability to respond calmly to setbacks such as the swine flu epidemic and the sponsorship shortfall resulting from the global financial crisis, inspired every member of the committee to work harder.

Victor is, without doubt, the most exceptional person I have ever served with on a committee. His McKinsey brain never fails to impress, but it is Victor’s personal qualities that really make him stand out. A natural consensus builder, Victor has a remarkable capacity to manage conflict and maintain strong personal relationships with everyone he works with. Victor always cared about what was best for MAD, even if it didn’t serve his own personal interests. As a club leader and executive member, his contribution to the club has been immense.

Conclusion

Finally, Victor has made a remarkable contribution to the MAD culture. From his vigorous pant-tearing dance moves to his ambiguous sexual orientation to his increasingly prominent bald spot, I suspect that Victor will be at the heart of many of the fondest memories people have of MAD. Life membership seems appropriate, because I suspect that MAD will always be an important part of Victor’s life. It is a pleasure to commend his name for life membership.

Nominated by Kiran Iyer
March 2011