This week I was interviewed by Chris Russell, The Advertiser Education journalist. In our conversation, he asked me about the importance of our Old Scholars to the School. It was an interesting question, especially as we prepare to farewell another cohort of students at the end of the school year.
Fortunately, it was quite an easy question to answer. Our Old Scholars are very important to us. How they live their lives, how they interact with others and how they contribute to our society defines us as a School.
In just a few short months, the Class of 2021 will receive their ATARs and their results help create a ‘league table’, marking the success of schools within South Australia. While this is still the current approach, perhaps the success of a school should be measured in a different way. The reality is that Thursday 18 November, with the Prize Giving Ceremony, Valedictory Service and Dinner, is probably the last day that this cohort will ever be together in the same place at the same time. Since the first graduating class in 1965, we have seen over 10,000 students pass through the School. Imagine if we could track all of our Old Scholars and survey them at seven years, 14 years, 21 years and more, following graduation. We could see how they are progressing in their careers; see how they are living their lives; check if they have found their purpose; see if through being kind, grateful and useful, built on a strong sense of purpose, if they are happy.
Friday 5 November is our Old Scholars’ Annual Dinner, the first since August 2019, and it is a sold-out event. It will provide a great opportunity to run a ’pulse check’ on the above but there are other ways to check too. Old Scholars regularly visit Westminster for academic, sporting, creative, or nostalgic reasons and for tours, concerts, assemblies and ceremonies. Some are on staff at Westminster, some are School parents, some are both. In this week alone, outside of staff, I have chatted to over a dozen Old Scholars. Some of them are in their late fifties, some in their early 20s about to graduate from university, while others, still in their teens, are just finishing their first year of study and apprenticeships. Without fail, the Old Scholars who I talked to were genuine, engaging, friendly and happy people. They are all taking huge strides forward in their lives from starting a Masters qualification to training for an AFL Club while studying. One was even running a huge funding organisation.
What struck me about these Old Scholars was how balanced they appeared in their outlook on life and in their lives generally. They were all active and committed to living lives to their potential. I sincerely hope this is the same for other Old Scholars. Our graduates, just like our current students, are extremely fortunate to have grown up in a safe nation, a great state and had parents and families prepared to value education highly enough to send them to our School. They are living exemplars of a Westminster education and we hope when they reflect on their time at school, it is with great fondness.
So when I was asked by the journalist about the importance of our Old Scholars, it was easy to respond. They are vital to us and our relationships with them are grounded in respect. We work hard to build and maintain these relationships within a myriad of vibrant networks that exist within our School community.
I am looking forward to meeting as many Old Scholars as I can at the dinner this evening.