Over the past six years of my term as Chairman of the St Stithians College Council, the rector, Dr Tim Nuttall, and myself, have each year discussed who we would invite to be our guest speaker, who would say what — and what emphasis we would place on the day. This year I was particularly keen to emphasise the need for transformation — especially on a gender level — and to explore the very many facets of #Saints Excellence.

I rarely publish my talks as I often edit on the go — preferring to link with the mood on the day (my own and the audience). So, below is not 100% as delivered on the day, but as near as dammit.

Upon reflection, I realise I should have been more explicit about my belief that our seven schools are what make us unique — and not having any one of them in the mix would make us far less. In particular, not detailing on the day (as I often have in the past and continue to do on social media) an example or two of the very many contributions that our Girls’ College makes to #SaintsExcellence (such as being dominant in all three disciplines of water sports), was a failure — for which I apologise most sincerely.

I have been explicit that Saints is a much better place today than when I matriculated in 1991 — and one big contributor to that was the founding of our girls’ schools. I am also clear that none of our seven schools is or should be better than the other. Together, synergistically, we are great.

As in any community (and indeed my talk on Founders’ Day mentioned this) we often don’t have enough conversations. Time is a reason but not an excuse. And so I decided to publish this here, and to recommit myself to many meaningful conversations and interactions with all in the Saints community as we, together, develop #SaintsExcellence.

 


St Stithians College Founders’ Day 1 June 2019 — thoughts from the Chairman of Council

Good morning fellow members of the Saints community

Masizame ukukhuluma isiZulu

Nonke namukelekile lapha

Hot on the heels of Africa Day and the inauguration of our President, a former Saints parent and trustee of the Saints Foundation, His Excellency Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, it is indeed glorious to celebrate our Founders’ Day, together.

South African drum beats.

Our African heart beats.

A theme consciously chosen to reflect that St Stithians College is a place rooted in Africa, in her soil, in her beats.

Amandla!

We continue to refine the programme and format of the day as we seek to acknowledge, celebrate and give thanks to our founders as well as past and present members of the Saints community. Many of you are mentioned in our programme, but many more of you contribute daily in ways unseen.

In our chapel pulpit there is a plaque to a William McEwan who was born in 1877 and died in 1942 – nobody knows who this man was or how the plaque came to be. Many of us will be forgotten by history. No matter, as all of us, all of us, whether our names are inscribed in books, on plaques or on buildings, make Saints the special place that it is.

History is often not kind to the vulnerable, the humble, the servant leaders who quietly contribute. As we journey together as Saints, we seek to colour in our history and to consciously shape our future to be one of diverse inclusivity. To recognise those parts of our community who have and perhaps continue to be overlooked.

To all of you, a very special welcome and thank you for your massive contribution. A personal welcome to Mrs Binda and Mrs Langa, Granny Koko B and Granny Koko Rebs. I asked your granddaughter Lethabo-Thabo, my friend and a product of our excellent Girls’ College, to please bring you today as we must share more stories with our elders – and learn more from them. Thank you for joining us.

To the pupils here today, my most important welcome. I was once where you are now. Of course, in my day we held Founders’ Day in Mears Hall as it could hold our growing community nicely. I can’t recall a single speaker but I recall, strongly, my sense of pride and comfort at being a St Stithians pupil. And that pride has only grown over the years as Saints has grown and changed.

Some of you will be rich. Some of you will be famous. Some of you will die young. Others will live to be over a 100. Some will live lives that meander very differently to what you now imagine they will. My hope is that all of you will continue to, as you do now, leave your mark on this place that helps to shape us all.

I wish to share a few brief thoughts about

#SaintsExcellence and

#AfricaRising –

And encourage you to use these hashtags to reflect your own interepretations of these broad topics.

I wish to acknowledge a few people in their personal capacities but also for those whom they represent.

Mrs Ntombi Langa-Royds, our deputy chair of Council, chairman of our Remuneration committee, former parent, wise councilor, inspirational South African and friend — welcome to you and to all council members, servant leaders who govern through support, influence, challenge and guidance of the executive, an enterprise which has a turnover of over R300 million annually;

Mr Gary Morolo, chair of the St Stithians College Endowment Fund Trust, confidant, generous servant leader and strategist extraordinaire — to you and your fellow trustees, our warm greetings. Your custodianship of our more than 105 beautiful hectares of land, including our property at Welgevonden in Limpopo and buildings insured for billions, is much appreciated

Bishop Gary Rivas, our district bishop, former parent and driver of much exciting changes within the MCSA: may I congratulate and thank you, Rev Charmaine Morgan and your leadership on the election of our first woman presiding bishop – Bishop Purity Malinga as well as your successor incoming Bishop Faith Whitby. We need many more women in positions of power as we journey towards gender equality, long overdue in so many facets of our lives, including here at St Stithians.

Mr Shaun Edmeston, who has indicated that he will soon be stepping down as chairman of the Old Stithian Association, to you, your President Piet van Tonder, former chairman Craig Warriner, and your committee who contribute so much through your passion, dedication and at times blind loyalty to this College, my immense thanks and appreciation — Shaun, you have played a massive role. How true that if your ship once was anchored here, your heart never really leaves;

Ms Itumeleng Matlaila, chair of the PTA chairs — walking with you at our bush school Kamoka and discussing the future of our country, our College and our personal lives, remains a special memory and reflects, I know, the very many meaningful conversations between our parents.

Our PTAs have matured and under the leadership of five women, are ensuring strong parental voices on our Saints journey.

Often our parents expect perfection from our staff. Only natural as the most precious parts of you — your children — are in their care. And often these expectations are unrealistic. But it is through your passion, your challenge, your contributions to ensure the very best for your children, that this place grows…that this place thrives. Thank you.

Dr Nuttall, our rector, and Ms Celeste Gilardi, our acting rector. Tim is on long leave but we had agreed that he would not miss our high day — thank you Tim, our very wise rector whose leadership continues to be a massive gift. To both Tim, Celeste and your fellow executive team members and all our staff, my deepest gratitude obo all who are gathered here.

Your profession is a noble one. Perhaps, the most noble. If we include our permanent staff, our interns, our Servest, Sodexo, Supercare, Special ops, coaches — all whom contribute — there are just over 700 of you. We spend around 70% of our annual budget on your salaries. A large part of our capex budget is dedicated to increasing our housing stock and with around 90 units, we have done well. THANK YOU.

One of the exciting parts of today is the launch of A Gardener’s Legacy – by Pauline Dickson. As you will read in the book, Pauline and I have known each other a long time — her son Robert and I matriculated together.

Our class planted the first trees by the dams in 1991. We started the GAIA society and Pauline rather ungraciously chose to include a photo of me looking especially cool in my jeans circa 1989 with my GAIA T-shirt.

The book is one woman’s subjective story on some levels. But like all our stories, it cannot be told in isolation. Many names and anecdotes are recorded.

Many are not. But we build on our past. Together. Weaving in our own stories, making our own contributions — all of whom are valued.

This day is about an introspection of our foundation in the imagining of our dreams. We look back to build for the future.

What a comforting thought that none of us is special in isolation but get our worth through community.

Thank you for celebrating a part of who we are, Pauline, and I strongly encourage you all to buy a copy — you’ll be amazed at the history of the little farm Driefontein.

A Gardener’s Legacy is a part of #SaintsExcellence.

As is the Boys’ College winning the Festival of Excellence in the Dramatic Arts last week with their stunning performance of The Champion.

As was our Ascension Service on Thursday where we released white doves who flew overhead before heading home.

As is every child in the JP taking part in their mini Comrades to raise funds for cancer.

As is Gareth, Motseki, Lester and many others running the Comrades next weekend.

As is the work done by the Girls’ Prep to grow young women into their best selves.

#SaintsExcellence from our Girls’ College

And the BP spirit cry you’ll see later with great, cool moves.

As is Chris Brown posting to his more than 53 MILLION Instagram followers that Saints is LIT. (EDIT — WITH THE MISOGYNIST BEHAVIOUR BY THIS ARTIST, THIS WAS NOT A GOOD EXAMPLE TO INCLUDE)

As is the sun streaming through the stained-glass windows as we bury our mothers in the chapel.

SaintsExcellence is also when Cameron Conlon’s mum hands an award out in memory of her son who died too soon in his Matric year.

When we pass a statue commemorating one of our own, shot and killed alongside his mum. Pass a tower commemorating those who were killed.

When we think back to our English teacher Wally Mears who fell to his death in the Transkei whilst on a hike with some of us.

SaintsExcellence is when we sit quitely in the Garden of Remembrance.

In tasting home brew at Kamoka.

When we watch for hours as our alumnus Kevin Anderson wins a marathon Wimbledon semi-final.

When our pupils protest at the failures of us, their leaders.

When busy, stressed parents volunteer at our Easter Fest.

It’s when young Jamie Cikes brings his mum, dad and sister back for Founders’ Day to a school he was at once and may again return to.

It’s when we can speak in frustration to each other at a Council committee meeting on a Wednesday and shake hands on Thursday.

SaintsExcellence is in our student body which is nearly 50% black at major intake areas.

It’s in Abdullah Verachia — a former Penryn Council Member whose daughter started with us last week.

In our Penryn family who are here. And Mark Henning. David Wylde. Past Fincom chair, old boy and parent Clive. Alexa and family. Anton and Michelle de Souza who took us to the next level. Barbara who arranges my academic gown and so much more. Dave Schroenn who was chairman when I was here, a driving force behind our Girls’ schools and a man I look up to.

In the opening of the Wilson Semono building.

The Andries Dlamini oval where our first Saints ICC World Cup player Kagiso Rabada played.

And alumnus Protea David Trebugge, now a parent.

In Denis Beckett trekking back here today.

SaintsExcellence is in our GC class of 2009 returning this weekend.

And our BC class of 1979 with Bruce’s wife Nerine chairing our GovCom.

Our 50th anniversary rowing dinner.

Thandulwazi. All of it.

SaintsExcellence is found in a blessing from Father Matthew Charlesworth.

It’s in Ruth’s poems.

The music we hear and make today.

In how we greet and converse with each other.

It’s in the many conversations we can’t share as they involve the serious challenges that some in our community face.

SaintsExcellence is in all of us.

It’s diverse. It’s messy. It’s real.

And it is all these facets of #SaintsExcellence I encourage you all to share as you acknowledge the person next to you.

When I agreed to serve as chair, I told myself that each day when I left, I’d be positive. I’d find one thing on this campus to be grateful for. Sometimes that has been hard. As life is sometimes hard. Bloody hard.

But I ask that all of you, daily, find that one thing — here and in our lives —  hashtag #SaintsExcellence #AfricaRising so that we increase the role we play as a beacon of hope in what a diverse Christian community can achieve.

We often spend more time talking about each other, than with each other. Indeed, we spend more time talking, than listening and learning.

Relationships take work. Hard work. A community is not perfect and in that imperfection we can celebrate diversity and our very many blessings to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Sue MacKenzie — whose son was also in my Matric year — was not only a mum but also wife to an alumnus and council member and a staff member, now retired in Australia. She recently wrote a piece of her many years at Saints and mentioned that her mum asked why do you pay such high fees and work so hard at school? The answer is, of course, volunteerism and all of you.

Only collective human energy can make this school great. Indeed, that energy and Saints heart beat’s kept our College great.

We are extraordinarily lucky to each have a drum to beat. Make music. Be generous. Be open. Be kind. Be vulnerable. Be Saints.

Ngiyabonga. Hambani kahle, Khotso!