A Very Sincere Thank You to All
The success of St Benedict’s today speaks for itself. From a relatively small Catholic School, twenty-five years ago, it has flourished and grown into South Africa’s largest Catholic School. Although the focus has always been on academics, St Benedict’s has also become a major sporting school in recent years, participating successfully in the various Boys’ Schools leagues. As I look back on my twenty-seven years at St Benedict’s and twenty-five as headmaster, it is impossible (and even dangerous!) to try to thank all those who contributed towards building St.Benedict’s into the great school it has become. At every step of the way we have had a remarkably successful team, consisting of Oblates, Board and staff; as well as parents and boys.
Thanks to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Among the Oblates it was Fr Frank Santucci, Fr Frank McGreal, the late Brother Les Tiernay and the late Brother Malcolm Barber who played important roles at the School in the later nineteen eighties. (The story is still repeated at various gatherings of Old Boys of the practical joke played on Brother Barber by the matrics who advertised his motor-bike for sale in the Star newspaper!). The School has been fortunate in the support it has received from so many Oblates and Oblate Provincials, particularly old boys Fr.Eddie Risi (now Bishop of Keimoes-Uppington) and the late Fr Peter Galloway.
It was a sadness that after Fathers Santucci and McGreal , the Oblates were no longer in a position to provide a full-time Chaplain to the school. We were singularly blessed, however, in being able to secure the services of Sr Lorna Costa of the Holy Rosary sisters who was our school chaplain from 1995 to 2003. To the best of my knowledge St Benedict’s is the only Catholic School in South Africa ever to have had a lady chaplain and such a successful one at that! Today we have an excellent Chaplain in Fr Tony Daniels OMI (albeit a part-time chaplaincy).
Thanks to the Board of Governors
Throughout my time as Headmaster, St Benedict’s has had an excellent Board, ably led by Robin Lydall as Chairman. Many individual Board members have played important roles, contributing to the growth and well-being of the school over and above what one would normally expect of a Board member. The late Bill Whelan and Chris Plint (both medical doctors); Chris Barratt in the earliest years of St Benedict’s rowing and later Alan Brown who himself built ten sculling boats for us and who came with me to Hangzhou in China to buy a container full of cheap Chinese rowing boats! It was Alan Brown too who acted as our project manager – especially during the building of our beautiful Junior Preparatory School. Other Board members who assisted the school greatly were Pieter Schild (finance); Doug Boake (finance); Paul Carstensen (legal matters); Dieter Klapthor (building and rugby); Kieron Geoghegan (rugby) and John Esterhuizsen (hockey and cricket).
Thanks to Staff
St Benedict’s has been greatly blessed too in the calibre of its teaching and coaching staff. Sixteen persons, including myself, appeared in the staff photograph of 1984. This was the entire staff of the school, both primary and secondary! Theresa Leong (Prep School R.E.) who also retires at the end of this year; Evelyn Addison (Prep School mathematics) who retired at the end of last year; the late Molly Woodhouse (geography); Vernon Seward (soccer and woodwork); and the colourful Joan Fubbs (history), well-known for her hats and her yellow Morris Minor, who is now an ANC Member of Parliament. There were sixteen persons in this photograph. Mrs Coleen Mowatt tells me that we now have more than one hundred and forty teaching and sports staff. (Occasionally, I come across a St Benedict’s teacher in the corridors, whom I am certain I have never met before!)
Other St Benedict’s teachers include English teachers, the late Vivienne Henderson; Ivanka Aquisto (now Head of St.Stithians Girls’ College) and Margarita Nichas in more recent years; Notable teachers of mathematics include the late Bev Adcock, Kathy Burden, Vivian Budge, Heleen Rademeyer, Marge Povall, Margie Hawthorne (now teaching in Oman), Sharon Peatfield and Shelly Joseph. I too taught Mathematics and Additional Mathematics for many years (although I was actually more qualified as an English teacher!) Mrs Ute Smith has led the very able Afrikaans Department for many years. The most colourful of all our Afrikaans teachers, however, was Barbara Derschell, the subject of many practical jokes played on her by her students. Vic Greer, our longest serving Science teacher (and Cricket Coach) retired in 2003. Mrs Maryanne Pullinger, who also taught Science was the person who started St Benedict’s Rowing. She is now the Head of Veritas College in Springs. A most successful department has been the Computer Studies Department, headed by Delia Kench, that year by year produces unbelievably good matric results! Other long-serving members of the teaching staff have been Rina van Niekerk (Afrikaans), Bridget Zajac (biology) and Judy Mogg (history).
A person responsible for much of the growth and current success of St Benedict’s was our first Grade 1 teacher and later Principal of the Junior Preparatory School, Magda Wouters, who retired at the end of 2007 and who now lives in London. Also a person who played an important role at St Benedict’s was Larraine Roberts who just recently retired from the position of Principal of the Holy Rosary Primary School. Sean Geoghegan was a very dedicated Principal of the College from 1998 to 2002. At the time it was hoped that he would succeed me as Headmaster, but he resigned from St.Benedict’s when he and his family emigrated to Australia. Bernard Langton, first Senior Housemaster at the school hostel, also at one time thought of as a possible successor, became Head of the St Thomas Aquinas School in Witbank.
On the sporting side of things, important roles were played by Mark Rabey who became Deputy Head and master-in-charge of sport. It was he who played an important part in our rowing and in the establishment of our rugby. Steven Hasselbach, who joined us after the untimely death of coach Gavin White, coached our first eight to five first eight wins at the South African Schools Rowing Championships. Able persons in charge of our rowing after Maryanne Pullinger, have been Jean Kelly, Sean Tangney and currently Nadine Anderson. St Benedict’s has won the Schools’ Rowing Championships each year for the last eighteen years.
Other successful sports coaches have been Craig Norris (cricket); Chris Tomcek (cricket); James Mtetwa (basketball); Gary Cimma (rowing); Morne Nel and Mark Julyan (rugby and athletics); Nicky Hamman (tennis); Ron Sileno (waterpolo) and Craig Jackson (swimming). Oldboys played and continue to play an important role particularly as rugby, rowing and hockey coaches.
On the cultural side John Anderson who started the Pipe Band as well as Gary Davies and Anthony Evans (both pipe band tutors) played a significant role; also Pauline and Peter Constable (cubs and scouts) and the staff generally in public-speaking, debating, chess, the Bible Quiz and drama.
The role played by R.E. teachers in a Catholic School is a crucial one. Many teachers have taught RE but prominent teachers that come to mind are Magda Wouters and Hillary Esterhuizen in the Junior Preparatory School; Theresa Leong in the Preparatory School and in the College, Mandy Watermayer, Bernard Langton, Natasha Couto and more recently Grant Hanouch.
As a result of the calibre and commitment of staff, it comes as no surprise that over the last five years St Benedict’s has produced both its best-ever matric results and its best-ever sporting results. We have a generally outstanding staff, ably led by College Principal, Andre Oosthuysen and Prep School Principal, Graeme Edwards and their deputies.
Thanks to Administrative and Support Staff
I have always maintained that St Benedict’s is a blessed school. One of the areas in which our blessings can most clearly be seen is in the calibre and loyalty of our Admin staff: from the late Kath Baston, Lee Dickhart, and the late Lorna Busby and Doreen Muir in the 1980s to the excellent staff of today including Coleen Mowatt (School Bursar and Secretary of the Board of Governors), Carol Pooley, Maggie De Jonckheere, Carmen Kelly and Melanie Schnelle. Also Lesle Dubrovo and Lillian Pillay. And then also Richard Wilson, in charge of building maintenance; our oldest serving member of staff, Benedict Ndlovu who commenced at St Benedict’s in 1980 and Muriel Dolwana who has been in charge of printing and duplicating for many years. And Sylvia who makes the best possible coffee! Also our long-serving and reliable drivers, Daniel Nendouvhada and David Tshishonga.
Thanks to Parents and Boys
A major reason (perhaps the major reason) for the growth and success of St Benedict’s has been the role played by several generations of parents and boys! It is impossible to single out all the boys and parents who have made huge contributions to the School. Parents have been and still are greatly motivated in support of St Benedict’s and its boys. And our boys, for the most part are all highly motivated in their studies and in their sporting activities. It is not surprising therefore that so many go on to achieve great things at University and in their subsequent careers.
Above all, I thank Almighty God, for my twenty-seven wonderful years at St Benedict’s, and thank Him for the graces so lavishly bestowed on the school and on all associated with the school. There are very many persons that I have not listed above! I have no doubt that all will continue to receive His blessings in the years to come.
And finally, in the words I used so often to end assemblies: "I love you all!"