Grammarians who were students at Caulfield Campus in the last years of the 20th Century and the early years of the 21st will remember a lone figure of Dr Jack Cherny jogging around the Alf Mills Oval on most mornings of the year. It is calculated that he chalked up some 82,000 laps covering 45,990 kilometres over 32 years from 1975 to 2007.
Jack arrived at Caulfield Grammar School from Ripponlea State School in 1942 and became a member of Barnett House. A self-confessed “swot”, he maintained good results but his other aim was to obtain House Colours which he achieved in swimming, tennis and debating. In 1945, he took part in the E1 Players production of Twelfth Night which was staged before an audience of 400 at the Malvern Town Hall. In 1949, he was appointed a School Officer and took the notice boards portfolio.
He remembers with fondness Mr Archer and Mr Pennefather, who were kind to him, and Dr Billigheimer with whom Jack, from the age of ten, would walk from his house at the corner of Orrong Road and Tantrum Avenue. His particular memory of Mr Morcom was an occasion when a boy was waiting outside Mr Morcom’s office to be punished. A small group of boys started to mock the boy awaiting his punishment. Mr Morcom emerged and saw what was happening — so he punished the lot of them!
In 1950, Jack began an economics degree at the University of Melbourne. His Year 12 subjects led him in that direction: English Expression, English Literature, British History, Pure Mathematics and Accounting.
At the end of first year, he took a holiday job which involved some accounting at the archives of Trustees and Executors in Melbourne. He was put to work in a caged area auditing share scripts. While he was studying second year economics, he started to develop an interest in medicine so he enrolled at Taylor’s College and attended classes in Chemistry. Fortuitously, in 1952, the University of Melbourne dropped all prerequisites for entry into medicine. Jack enrolled, worked hard and, in his final year, became a resident at the Alfred Hospital for a year. He then worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital for twelve months before joining a private practice in St Kilda and then chose to spend six months studying obstetrics at Crown Street Hospital in Sydney.
After leaving school, Jack had become a heavy smoker. Early in his work at the St Kilda practice, he consulted famous Spring Street psychiatrist Dr Ainslie Meares who taught him to relax and helped him to give up smoking. Jack was so moved by the Meares philosophy that he later took his sons to some of Dr Meares’s public sessions.
After 40 years in the Carlisle Street practice and with his wife, Betty, then in a nursing home, Jack decided to cut down on his hours. A young doctor wanted to establish a drug de-toxification centre. Funded by a philanthropist, he bought the practice and the property. A practice had opened nearby in Chapel Street. Jack called in one day and joined the doctors there so he moved around the corner and remained there for 13 years, ensuring he could be away by three o’clock each day to visit Betty.
Jack had a good relationship with Caulfield’s then Director of Sport, Denis Meyer, who allowed him the early morning use of the oval. In 2002, on Jack’s 70th Birthday, at the suggestion of Jack’s middle son, eye specialist Mark Cherny, Denis arranged a student guard of honour to greet him on his morning jog. Some years later when Denis visited Jerusalem, Jack’s eldest son, Nathan Cherny, Associate Professor of Medicine at Ben Gurion University in Jerusalem as an oncologist and palliative care physician, took Denis and his wife on a tour of the city.
Unfortunately, in June 2013, Jack had a bad fall, injuring his head. Later in the year, he had a car accident, suffering a sub-dural haemorrhage which was related to the fall in June. After successful surgery, he realised that it was time to give up working. He was 81 years old.
In his speech accepting an Honorary Doctorate at Monash University in May, 2017, Nathan described his father as “the ultimate caring, careful, wise but humble physician”, a description which would be affirmed by all who have had the privilege of knowing Jack Cherny. He doesn’t go jogging around the oval any more but, at the age of 85 in 2018, he travelled again to Israel to visit his sons, David, a former physiotherapist in the Israeli Army and now an Israeli Tour Guide, and Nathan, and their families.