BGS Foundation Day 2015

BGS Old Boy Chris Raine inspired current students with his stories and spoke about his bid to challenge Australia’s binge drinking culture.

​Brisbane Grammar School Headmaster Anthony Micallef writes about the celebration of the school's 147th Foundation Day assembly today, including the presentation of three important annual scholarships to members of the 2014 year 12 group; and the address by Old Boy Chris Raine and his bid to challenge Australia's binge drinking culture.​

Our BGS Foundation Day assembly has three clear determinations. First, we rejoice the foundation and history of this school, the oldest boy's secondary school in Brisbane. Second, we invite successful Old Boys back to the school to address the students. And third, we assert our school's historical commitment to scholarship, by acknowledging the accomplishments of three outstanding graduates of the preceding year and by acknowledging those in years 7 or 8 boys who are entering the school on trustees' scholarships, or have received a bursary to assist them with their first year at the school.

In examining the school's history, I reminded attendees of The Act of State Parliament, passed in 1861, which made endowment for the formation of secondary schools for children in Queensland. It took a further seven years to generate the funds required to establish a secondary school for boys in Brisbane. The state government contributed two pounds for each pound publicly subscribed, and a foundation stone was laid on 29 February 1868 at the original site of the school, where Roma Street station is now located. In 1869 the school received its first students.

I chose to talk briefly about the legacy of the first three headmasters and then concentrate much of my address on the contribution of Stuart Stephenson, the fourth headmaster. Thomas Harlin (1869-1876), the school's first headmaster, believed in treating the boys with the utmost confidence. He wanted them, in work and play, to act from a sense of duty and not from fear of punishment – a sentiment we strongly espouse today. His successor, Reginald Heber Roe (1876-1909) supervised the relocation of the school from its original Roma street site to the present site in 1881. Roe was an ardent supporter of the languages and an educational pioneer. More than 100 years later we carry his ambition to teach classic and modern languages.

Last year in my address I evoked something of the school's history under the third headmaster, Mr F. S. N. Bousfield (1909-1927). Frederick Bousfield was the first headmaster of the school to be appointed from within the staff. Throughout Bousfield's era, the school continued to build its reputation for seeking to educate the well-rounded 'whole' man, aiming to combine pursuit of scholarship with healthy athleticism to form strong character and a sense of public spirit. These broad goals have been a hallmark of the school's mission throughout its history and resonate very strongly with our community.

The fourth headmaster, and the one I acknowledged in this year's ceremony was Mr Stuart Stephenson (1928-1939) - considered by many as the quintessential Grammar all-rounder. He was a scholar of note, a sportsman, and a historian with a rare feeling for the school's tradition and continuity. Above all, he was a magnificent teacher, particularly of mathematics.

During the depression years Stephenson's humanity was what defined him. When he heard of boys who could not afford to pay school fees he found ways to support their education through the kind benefaction of other Grammar families. He also employed the school's significant network to assist boys to find employment once they had completed school. He was a pioneer of career guidance and I am confident he would marvel at the student services provisions and bursarial support that are offered to students today.

Stephenson also had a great sense of tradition. In a year where we will honour a century since the Gallipoli landing and show our respects to past Grammar students who served our country, Stephenson ardently regarded the Old Boys as members of the extended school community. He had no hesitation in lauding their achievements, seeking their advice, and asking past students to support struggling BGS families or fund the next major project. His pledge to the Old Boys Association is a legacy which we appreciate today.

For almost 150 years Brisbane Grammar School has maintained a determination to provide the highest standards of schooling to boys and it continues to regard this as its key function. In this, the 147th year it is another notable step forward in our school's history. Stephenson's vision was to create a school where all students could find success. His purpose resonates with our modern school and I am confident that each of the aforementioned school leaders would be proud of the Brisbane Grammar School we enjoy currently, and the students who traverse its corridors.

The second stage of the ceremony was an address by well-known Old Boy Mr Chris Raine (2003). His life highlights the infinite possibilities that await young Grammar men confident to pursue their dreams. Chris' life journey has taken a non-linear path. His school days were challenging and his early years as a university student were similarly awkward. These days he is the founder and CEO of Hello Sunday Morning (HSM), an organisation that challenges young people to give up alcohol for three, six or 12 months at a time. Chris' goal for the organisation is to break his generation's unhealthy obsession with binge drinking.

While working at an advertising agency on an anti-alcohol campaign he first became interested in communicating to young people the adverse effects of excessive alcohol. In January 2009, Chris decided to abstain from alcohol for a year and began writing a blog to record his journey. The HSM blog and website are now influencing participants, of all ages, to reconsider their drinking habits. To change Australia's drinking culture, Chris says 'young people need to believe in an alternative that will improve their lives, provide a sense of purpose and help build meaningful relationships'. Chris spoke of the worth of relationships, the need for persistence and resilience in constructing a successful career and the importance of creativity in fostering a meaningful life. Chris' honesty and candidness about social issues that affect our society was warmly received by the audience.

The final part of the Foundation Day assembly was the presentation of three important annual scholarships to members of the 2014 year 12 group. I am delighted to congratulate Elliot Cichero on receiving the R.H. Roe Scholarship, John Cavaye as the winner of the A.S. Roe Scholarship, and Angus Farr on being presented with the A. J. Mason Scholarship. The awarding of these scholarships at Foundation Day serves a twofold purpose. First, it reminds our young men of the pioneers from Grammar's past – our longest-serving and most significant head – R. H. Roe; our first Rhodes Scholar, A. S. Roe; and A. J. Mason, who taught at BGS from 1889 to 1940. Second, the Grammar careers of the award winners are rousing models to our current students. Pleasingly, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr Howard Stack, and the President of the Old Boys' Association, Mr Stuart Rees, joined the assembly and presented the various awards. The three young men were splendid Grammar all-rounders, exceptional academics, extraordinary extracurricular contributors, respected leaders, and fantastic servants of this community. They have commenced their tertiary studies and we wish them much success in the years ahead.

We also acknowledged and congratulated the following boys on the receipt of trustees' scholarships: Timothy Weber, Danny Kim and Aditya Karthik. These young men have recently commenced their Grammar journeys. They have the responsibility of using the intellect to advance their ambitions and to benefit others. We are confident they possess the character to support their peers.

The school also presents several historical bursaries which assist boys in their first year at the school. This year Jianan Lin and Thomas Meutermans were awarded the J. G. Nowlan Bursary, named after Joseph Gabriel Nowlan who taught at BGS for 37 years and was a tireless worker for the Old Boys' Association. Equally, year 7 boarder Alexander MacGibbon was presented with the Frank Shaw Bursary. This is available for a boy entering Harlin House who performs well in the scholarship examination. This bursary was established some years ago by an Old Boy of the school in memory of a school friend.