Thursday, 30 October 2014

Centenary Speech


In September this year we hosted old boy and our 1932 Dux Hugh Turnbull at a special assembly to celebrate his 100th birthday. He is still remarkably spry and chipper for his years. It struck me then that one life time goes by so quickly and yet Wellesley turning a 100 seems monumental.

So much has happen since Harry Amos set up Wellesley a hundred years ago..

Since its inception, Wellesley has marched on through significant historical changes and challenges. Setting up a school at the start of ww1 was a bold move  (in anyone’s language) but bigger challenges were to follow. The great depression, ww2, fire, earthquakes, storms, global financial challenges and much, much  more.

It has been said that the last 100 years has seen “more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined. Terms like ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common language usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, drastically changed the worldview of scientists, causing them to realize that the universe was fantastically more complex than previously believed.
The 20thcentury started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with high-speed rail, cruise ships, global commercial air travel and the space shuttle.
Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology particularly the Internet has made the world's knowledge instantly available. Advancements in medical technology increased life expectancy from 35 years to 75 years plus.        
(italics adapted from Wikipedia--

Change has been constant from the inkwells and blotters of 1914 to the World Wide Web of the 1990s to 3D printers of today. Wellesley has more than kept up with these changes. The early 20th century society demanded that children were to be seen but not heard and that they were vessels to be filled with knowledge to today's fostering of curiosity, self-expression and creative thinking.

Yet for all this change from those early days on the Terrace in Wellington, our founder Harry Amos would be proud to know that his aims of teaching the boys to become self-reliant, responsible and worthy citizens are still at the heart of Wellesley today.

 It was an inspired decision to move Wellesley out to Days Bay. The location is quite spectacular and provides an aesthetic and spiritual backdrop which helps make Wellesley a jewel in Wellington’s crown.

We are a young city and country and Wellesley has grown in parallel with Wellington’s development. (best little city in the world no less) and along the way, many of our old boys have made,  and continue to make a substantial contribution to the business, sporting and cultural fortunes of the city and beyond.

Croydon had operated on this special Days Bay site since 1907 and their  raison d' etre sat comfortably with the merging with Wellesley in 1940. Croydon was an excellent school and today we honour it via one of our school Houses being named Croydon.

With minimal government support, remaining an independent school has always required fortitude.

It has taken commitment and tenacity from parents and staff to build  Wellesley to what it is today. Special people who have been the glue and gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the values and goals which have impacted so positively on so many boys are embedded in the culture of the school.

Wellesley is indeed in good heart. The facilities are modern learning environments fit for the successful 21st century learning model. Wellesley continues to be the school to beat be it in the classroom, on the sports field or in the exciting world of the arts. Tonight is to celebrate and honour the past but also to look out to the future because we want Wellesley to remain in the words of Bob Dylan, 'forever young'.

Compared to the norm, a disproportionate number of famous old boy achievers have come out of Wellesley. be it on the sports field, the business landscape, science and technology, the arts and community service. Success though comes in many forms and it swells any teacher’s heart with pride when they see the reluctant reader or the shy child blossom in their own way.

However the essence of Wellesley is the connection and rapport with staff and friends and the many stories and experiences of the boys from them crawling through the pipe leading to the beach to escape to the dairy, boys getting in the ceiling of Days Bay House and lifting the tiles to get a view,  to fishing on Days Bay wharf so matron could cook their fish for dinner to playing in the creeks and bush to the  cheeky and mischevious encounters with various staff. School life is remembered more from these adventures and experiences and the simple pleasures of the amazing natural environment of the beach and the bush than the many hours in the classroom itself.
Picasso said that when he was a child he dreamt of being able to draw like Raphael but as an adult he aspired to be able to draw like a child. I get that as young children bring an honesty and freshness to not only their art but to each encounter they have. This personal voice devoid of the influence of society's conditioning process allows their thoughts to come from the heart unfiltered and their individuality shines through.

Wellesley allows boys to show their inner self and enables them to be the best they can be. Wellesley has the confidence to allow the boys to be boys where laughter is valued and grit promoted.

Like Picasso, Wellesley must also continue to aspire to see the world through the lens of a child. This honesty, freshness and vitality will keep us curious, optimistic and fearless.

Like a dog with a bone we must continue to strive to be true to our values and build on our aspirational culture. This attitude is motivational for all concerned.

Schools have a unique opportunity to be transformational or ordinary. To inspire, to excite and to create the belief that anything is possible. Kurt Hahn’s philosophy of ‘we are all better than we know’ is central to this approach. To be involved in such an environment at Wellesley is an honour and I want you to know the whole is certainly greater than all the individual parts. No single person or group can create such an energy and this evening is a great way to bring us all together to celebrate our very special school.

I have no doubt that our second hundred years will bring more challenges and change than we can imagine but I also know Wellesley's heart is strong and we are not only ready to take whatever is thrown at us but willing to step out and take control of our own destiny.

As long as we keep current and relevant, striving to be fresh, innovative and brave Wellesley will continue to launch boys into life with an open mind prepared and willing to contribute.

Thank you for your unstinting support and it is my pleasure to raise a glass to you and to our very special school. To Wellesley!

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