I am privileged to write to the Edmund Rice College Community, as I conclude my time at the College, after 40 years.
My association starts back with the Christian Brothers, specifically, Br Frank Pelin, who employed me in December 1981 for 1982, as an English/History/Religion Teacher.
Along the way I have been blessed to work with outstanding Headmasters and Principals: Br Nick Lennox, Br Paul Oakley, Br Michael Walsh, Mr David Lear, Mr Peter McGovern and this year, Mr Stephen Gough. Under their unique style of leadership, the teaching of young men in the Illawarra has evolved and prospered at the College and become a distinctive point of difference for families looking for an all-boys education for their sons, in the Catholic tradition.
Within that legacy of work with distinguished leaders, one invariably comes into contact with professional leaders and colleagues who ‘subconsciously’ impact on you and from which your professional identity inadvertently emerges which defines you in and out of your work place.
Together with other educators at the College, I have witnessed many accomplishments and celebrations of success for boys who came through the College gates. However, it was not always without challenges. Edmund Rice College today is testimony to the fact that an enduring and thriving school is one that celebrates its successes and survives its challenges, by drawing on the collective good of Christian Brothers and lay staff working together with students, parents/carers and members of the community, to not waiver from delivering an authentic education, irrespective of the distractions and the unexpected.
And from 2007, the drive and energy for this reputable education has been continued with Edmund Rice Education Australia, initially led by Dr Wayne Tinsey and supported by Mr Peter Leuenberger, and from this year, Dr Craig Wattam. The vision that these inspirational leaders have set, across religious and lay domains, is what we see in Edmund Rice College where we provide an education permeated by a practical expression of Christianity that resonates with what parents are searching for their sons- an education based on Gospel values.
In working with Mr David Lear, as the first lay Headmaster, it was reassuring to realise and be able to demonstrate, that the authentic work of the Christian Brothers since 1926 would continue, prosper and remain alive in Wollongong, under lay leadership, aided by the presence of significant Brothers like, Br Bell, Br Gartland, Br Peel and Br Curtin, to mention a few. This growing confidence and presence continued under the leadership of Mr Peter McGovern in sustaining a genuinely liberating education, in a contemporary classroom environment with a supportive physical footprint.
Within that crossover of senior leadership over many years, one cannot discount the lively encounters that nurture your character, before you can be an authentic leader. I have been a beneficiary of the wisdom of many who traversed the corridors of learning within Edmund Rice College. I regard myself as fortunate for having been on this journey for consecutive years and I take with me memories of the interactions with many people from varied backgrounds whom I believe, over time, have contributed to who I am today. For this, I express gratitude for the numerous people I have worked with across the range of teachers, staff, boys, parents and carers and members of the community. That richness of reciprocal learning continues now under the leadership of Mr Stephen Gough and Mr Barry Walsh.
In concluding my work as a teacher, I thank the parents and carers who entrusted their sons to our care and the students themselves, for their enthusiasm to be at the College. I enjoyed teaching the boys from my earlier years on a full teaching load to an incrementally reduced load, every time I was placed in a position of responsibility, to not much teaching in the last 13 years. I always enjoyed the craft of teaching boys and would get self-satisfaction from seeing the boys’ results grow. I thank the parents/carers /boys for listening to me and trusting in my advice, in and out of the classroom. I, too, do not discount learnings on me from my interactions with the boys, in my growth as an educator and professional. I hope I will be remembered as an educator of integrity with a special interest in educating boys, in a Catholic environment, inspired by the Gospel Touchstones of justice, respect and fairness. And remembered, not only for what was done, but, for how it was done: consistently calm, compassionate with a deliberate willingness to listen and able to act decisively, if needed, without diminishing the dignity of the person; but, promoting it.
And to the teachers and the many professional groups that make up the staff, covering 40 years of my employment, at the same place – the wisdom they bring into school from outside their place of employment has been centre -piece to our discussions and a point of growth for me. I extend my appreciation to the many groups of Heads of Department, College Leadership Teams and Year Coordinators with whom I have worked, listened to, brokered a deal or two and ensured win – win situations. The daily 7.15 am discussions were always enlightening and calibrated the real meaning of what a table of knowledge should be. The acquaintances and friendships do not stop today but grow in different ways. I do not recall a time that I did not wish to come to work nor a time where I did not enjoy the discussions, all pointing to the collective interest for improving the learning environment, student management and the work culture of the College. Likewise, I thank staff for trusting in my leadership and accepting me as a supportive constant face in the busyness of a school day.
I express my thanks to the College’s Parents and Friends Association which I have seen grow due to parent leaders with a focussed vision and open willingness to work with the College’s Leaders in order to provide the best possible resources and environment for their sons’ learning. Congratulations on your most respectable vision and energy and thank you for allowing me, as the Deputy of the College, to join you on that journey to complement our roles.
Likewise, I extend my appreciation to all members of the College Advisory Council, previously known as the College Board, for your wisdom, professional and corporate knowledge which you have shared with us freely, in order to protect and best support the growth of the school.
Last Thursday, I was humbled by the attendance of Bishop Brian Mascord, Bishop of Wollongong and Fr Loubnan Tarabay, our Maronite Parish Priest in Wollongong, for concelebrating my Farewell Mass. Starting the night with the celebration of the Eucharist reminded us about the spiritual purpose to our work as educators, in a Catholic school. Our Mass was followed by a farewell dinner at Villa D’Oro which featured Bishop Brian, representatives of Christian Brothers and EREA, my brothers and sisters and their spouses, current and former, Headmasters and Principals, teachers and staff, parents/carers and old boys. I cannot thank enough those who attended and the many wishes that I have received from those who were unable to attend.
We heard reflections from 5 esteemed educators who have been significant in my journey: Br Oakley, Mr David Lear, Mr Brian Ireland, Mrs Sofia Masters and Mr Peter McGovern. I thank them for their flattering thoughts and I acknowledge all of the other staff with whom I have worked. Each one has been special in their way and each one would have a story about the many discussions we have had from which I would have taken my learnings and bearings
Recognising my 4 decades with Edmund Rice College began some weeks back with a function in Gosford which was organised by the Eastern Region Deputy Principals, under the guidance of Mr Peter Leuenberger, our EREA Eastern Region Coordinator. This event was followed by a gathering organised by our P and F, a school assembly on Tuesday and yesterday, a morning tea organised by our Office Staff. Along the way, I have been excited by my opportunities to talk to journalists from the Illawarra Mercury, WIN News and i98FM, about the wonderful memories I take with me and the dignified young men I have taught. Collectively, these events stress to me the strength of Community at ERC. Hopefully, as a proud retiree of this prominent educational institution, I can now add to that Community which has its origins in 1926 and stretches far beyond the gates of the school footprint.
I enter my retirement with a sense of anticipation and excitement Thank you to Covid, many plans have been put on hold! However, apart from that, I believe good health is crucial and on the back of that will come encounters with family and friends, here and abroad, which will grow new memories. Doing things at a slow pace and doing nothing might also be okay and not carrying a blue and red pen in the top pocket might also be a treat. I will always be interested in Edmund Rice College and its success stories. I do not finish because I am tired of the mundane aspects and grind of school management. In fact, I thrive on that, will miss the day to day contact and can gladly continue; but, I finish at a ripe time where I can enjoy life beyond employment. And that time for me is now.
I owe thanks to my family for being by my side all of the time. My brother John has been in retirement for 2 years and I have never seen him look back. Maybe I can be like that too. At the age of 96 and 87, I am blessed to have my parents in my life. They were unable to attend my Farewell Mass and Dinner; however, I know they visualised what was happening and were celebrating it in their way.
All in all, I sincerely thank everybody who comes under the banner of Edmund Rice College for being in my working life. I proudly take away many memories of service and loyalty from my association with amazing people over 40 years at Edmund Rice College. And for that, I thank each and every person.
I now look forward to positive retirement experiences.
Blessed Edmund Rice: Pray for Us
Live Jesus in our Hearts: Forever