Douglas William Stride lived through almost all of the twentieth century, and over the course of his long life would have seen his home city of Melbourne transform from a prosperous outpost of the British Empire, abundant in Victorian architecture, to the modern, multicultural and skyscraper-filled city it is today. A banker by profession, he was also an active philanthropist who gave back to his community. This side of him lives on in the form of the Mars-Stride Trust, which he established during his lifetime together with his wife Eleonoh, and which Equity Trustees continues to manage to this day.
A LIFE OF ACHIEVEMENT
Douglas was born in 1911 in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat, before moving with his family to the leafy suburb of Caulfield in Melbourne’s east. In 1928, after graduating from university, he became a junior clerk with the Commercial Bank of Australia (commonly abbreviated at the time to ‘CBA’, although not to be confused with today’s Commonwealth Bank of Australia). In his personal life he indulged his enthusiasm for sports, meeting his first wife, Eunice Dorothy Thorn, at a tennis match; they married at St Mary’s Church in Caulfield in 1939.
His career with the CBA progressed steadily, and by 1951 he had become the bank’s chief accountant. Six years later he moved to London to manage a CBA office there, cultivating Australasian business opportunities in Britain and Europe and, in so doing, establishing a reputation for himself as an outstanding operator. He returned to Melbourne in 1964 and continued rising through the CBA ranks, becoming Managing Director in 1971.
The bank underwent major growth and transformation under Stride’s leadership, with annual operating profits more than quadrupling. This period of change even made itself apparent physically, with the bank opting to base its offices in modern skyscrapers wherever possible – although in Stride’s home city this was foiled by the application of new heritage listing rules. The Victorian capital was coming full circle; after post-war ambitions to become a glass-and-steel metropolis like New York, Melburnians were becoming protective of the city’s old Victorian architecture and so ‘The Dome’ at 333 Collins St, a grandiose banking chamber where CBA’s Melbourne team resided, was saved from demolition – a move which disappointed Stride, ever the modern man.
Stride was widowed in 1972 but re-married in 1975, to Eleonoh Eileen Mars (née Harris). Aged 64, Stride was now entering older age and retired as MD in 1978. However, he was by no means slowing down: he continued as a non-executive director at CBA for another four years, during which time the bank merged with the larger Bank of New South Wales to form Westpac. Stride also served as chairman of the newly-formed Australian Dried Fruits Corporation, helping to promote the export of dried vine fruit. His passion for sports having never left him, he remained active in a number of clubs as well, including the Kew Sports Club where the ‘Doug Stride Green’ bears a plaque in his memory.
A key point for this story came in 1985, when Douglas and his wife established the Mars-Stride Trust to support children in need, entrusting its management to Equity Trustees. Douglas passed away 10 years later, survived by Eleonoh and three children from his first marriage. Stride Lane in the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin was named in honour of this remarkably productive and generous Australian, two qualities that came together to produce a fruitful and ongoing legacy.
A LEGACY OF GIVING
It would be easy to imagine that someone as incredibly high-performing as Stride must have been a rather serious, even intimidating, person. Yet he was known for his calm and informal manner as well as a cheeky sense of humour. And so it’s fitting that the modernising, business-savvy banker side of Stride’s personality was complimented by one of a generous benefactor who gave to a range of organisations, both through the bank and in a personal capacity. Stride supported his local church, St Mark’s in Camberwell, and was formally recognised for his significant contributions to both the National Gallery of Victoria and the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg .
Yet his legacy continues beyond those who knew him, or the stories shared by those who did. The Mars-Stride Trust that Eleonoh set up during the couple’s lifetime ensured that something of Douglas’ charitable spirit lived on. The Trust was established with $500,000 “for the general benefit of charity in the State of Victoria”, with Eleonoh expressing a wish that the trustee, Equity Trustees, apply the trust’s income towards “the promotion and financial support of children and homes caring for children”. For example, the Mars-Stride Trust is one of several trusts that fund the Out of Home Care Funders Group at the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.
As a result of careful financial management, the Mars-Stride Trust is now valued at more than $1.5 million and has distributed around $1 million of income to charitable organisations. The Trust is currently collaborating with other charitable trusts managed by Equity Trustees, joining forces to achieve even better outcomes for young Victorians in, and transitioning out of, out of home care. Douglas, astute businessman and far-sighted benefactor, would surely be pleased at his investment in the future.