Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
Last week our community came together to celebrate the efforts and achievements of our students at our annual Celebration Evening. Due to the restrictions of the day, we were not able to host this significant event in person. However, the efforts of our staff and students in presenting this evening online provided for a meaningful and memorable event. I am particularly grateful to Ms Kelli Joiner and Mr James Smith who put together all that we saw on screen along with Mr Josh Vujcich, Fr Paul Sireh O.Carm, Mr Mick Lafferty, Mrs Catherine Spurritt and our wonderful Student Leaders who all brought a great sense of dignity and gravitas to the occasion. It is my hope and prayer that this is the last time we ever gather for an event such as this online and I look forward to celebrating this evening in person with you in 2022.
Below is the address I delivered to our community at our Celebration event.
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Whitefriars College Family. It is great to be with you tonight as we celebrate the efforts and achievements of the fine young men of this great College.
Recently I was taking a group of prospective families on a tour of our great school. This is one of the most uplifting and energising aspects of my role, as I witness first-hand, the incredible variety of learning experiences and opportunities our students are offered, as well as the gifted, passionate and committed staff who deliver learning in a way that engages, connects and inspires our young men.
The most heartening and often unexpected moments on these tours are when, without any notice, I ask the boys to speak to our visiting families about their experience in the various classes we wander into. It never fails to amaze me how articulate, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic these boys are, about the subjects they take, the opportunities which exist, and their deep insights into their learning motivation.
On one such recent tour we entered the Healy Wilson Theatre where we were met by one of our students, Max Ceppi, who was on stage engaged in a singing lesson with his teacher Tracey Langer. I asked Max why he took up singing and what motivated him to be part of our music program, and said that when he came to Whitefriars, he decided that he would try new experiences like singing because Whitefriars is “a place where you can find yourself.”
This simple phrase… ‘At Whitefriars you find yourself’… is a significant part of the essence of our great College. Not only do we have a vast range of subjects, pathways, both curricula and co-curricular, we have passionate and dedicated staff, along with wonderful facilities which encourage and inspire students to have a go and experience new opportunities.
Even more than this, I believe that Whitefriars is a place where young men can find themselves, find what interests them, find what motivates and enthuses them and find the like-minded people who wish to join them in new pursuits free from stigma, judgement and inhibition.
If someone were to ask me what has changed at Whitefriars over the last sixty years, it would have to be the breadth of opportunities and the level of acceptance, and even kudos, attached to these activities.
At Whitefriars young men have the permission and license to find themselves and find what they love, with an opportunity to pursue it. I think part of the success we have here in supporting our boys to find themselves, is the fact we are a boys’ school that has the luxury of focusing on the things that interest and encourage young men to grow in knowledge, wisdom, faith and understanding.
At the very heart of this is our Carmelite ethos and identity which encourages us to reflect, to discern, and even to pray, as we search for our own sense of meaning and purpose in life. We are a Catholic Carmelite school which believes that success does not hinge purely on academic results, but on the development of the whole person. The great educational philosopher Terence Deal says, “If a school does not stand for something more profound than raising achievement levels, then it probably does not make a memorable difference to students, teachers or parents.” That said, we celebrate academic achievement as we celebrate all other endeavors in our community, and we strive to support our young men to become the best versions of themselves.
I know that over the past two years it has been more difficult for our students to access the range of opportunities our College is renowned for. I understand too, that for many in our Whitefriars family, life has thrown more than its fair share of challenges. I would like to acknowledge and thank all of our parents for the support and encouragement they have provided to our school and the commitment, love, and sacrifice you have given your sons in what has often been a very stressful and uncertain time.
I am grateful to the Whitefriars College Board, led by our Chair Mrs Margaret McKenna, who are some of the most generous and skilled people I have worked with in this space, and our Parents’ Association, led by Michelle Stapelfeldt, who are the true models of service to us all here at Whitefriars.
I am grateful for the incredible efforts of the staff of Whitefriars who have given beyond what is reasonable to provide the best for our boys and I am grateful to the boys themselves, for the adaptability and grit they have shown as well as the positive and mature way they have walked with their teachers, understanding that this has been a tough time for everyone.
But now we move forward into a brighter future, a future full of promise and hope, a future full of possibilities and opportunities and a future where each one of our young men can find themselves at Whitefriars.
Mr Mark Murphy