13 May 2016
There can hardly be a Wesley Collegian who maintains even a minimal contact with the College who is not aware by now that this year we are celebrating 150 years since a grand educational idea by our Methodist founders became a reality. In 1866, Freddie Binks turned up, followed closely by Jonah Dolphin, and the rest, as they say, is history. And our history is what largely makes this event so important: past and present intersect on such occasions, and we understand more truly who we are by observing where we have come from. As well, we are encouraged to fortify ourselves for the road ahead. This year we will be appropriately engaged in our hearts and minds with all things Wesley, and the many events planned will be instructive in different kinds of ways.
This is why I would like to begin my reflection, not in 1866, but
a hundred years later, when our Glen Waverley campus began
its life. Wesley was expanding after its first hundred years, and
this was only possible through the work of all those who had
established the school’s eminence in its first century. And how
fitting that our greatest step forward in the last quarter of the
twentieth century – coeducation – began at this new campus.
We commemorated this expansion on 5 March this year and
I was thrilled by the many who returned to enjoy this Golden
Jubilee. Just fifty years earlier, the then governor Sir Rohan
Delacombe, declared the new school open, in front of a
remarkable crowd of 4,000 well-wishers. We always enjoy our
get-togethers, and this too tells us something about the values
we place on community.
I naturally researched the history of this occasion, and was
immediately impressed by what the governor had to say about
Wesley in particular, and about outstanding schools in general.
It’s not the building and the grounds that make a great school,
but what happens around the buildings and the grounds, he had
told the gathering, and it’s the people who establish the culture
and the traditions. There is no better thought to have during our
sesquicentenary year than this one.
And in my address to staff old and new at the commencement
of the academic year, I sought to take us back into the past in
a meaningful way like this, so that the present, often lived in the
blur of immediacy, becomes clearer, more comprehensible. In
2016, it is crucial that we remember the pioneering work of the
Methodist church in education. The founding President, James
Waugh, insisted: the relation of the church to the education of
youth is intimate. She is to purify the fountains of instruction. She
is to encourage the expansion and improvement of the mind.
This message was confirmed by the Chronicle of that founding
year: While Wesley College will be an establishment for a
Christian education combined with the highest and best secular
knowledge, it will in no degree be sectarian, and will be open to
children of parents of all denominations.