Complex and integrated organisations, such as Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview, facilitate a multiplicity of programs and events that combine to form the rich tapestry of school life. There are many elements and prisms that form the organic whole of the school and its community, each of which attests to activities and emphases that reflect and refract the many aspects of the educational program. Week 2 of the term saw the student body settling into the routines and rhythms that provide the weekly cadence of life. That accepted, there were some events that were particularly special.
Early in the week, stage-based masses were held in gratitude for the gift of the summer break and the safe return to the school year. Fr Tom presided at each, encouraging the boys in the best of the Ignatian tradition to be mindful of the graces and blessings that see them enrolled at one of the very finest schools in the nation, one that speaks to a faith-tradition that is distinctive and grounded in values that promote the cause of social justice and service. These messages frontload the year and give the boys a very clear understanding as to what is expected of them as another busy term comes into view. I am very pleased to report that the boys participated respectfully and meaningfully in these liturgies as another year gains momentum and, with it, a renewed clarity of purpose.
The sparkle and theatre of the Laureate Assembly was conducted earlier today in the Ramsay Hall. In attendance were the Laureates – the graduates of 2020 who secured Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) scores in the top 10% of the graduating cohort in NSW, and by virtue of interstate conversion – the top echelons of the nation. They were joined by other notable graduates whose achievements were particularly meritorious and who were honoured by the College community for their outstanding commitment to learning. It was instructive for all of the boys to learn of the extravagant range of undergraduate courses the graduates are pursuing, from medicine and law to combined degrees in Engineering and Philosophy. The finest universities in Australia and throughout the world – including Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, have offered scholarships and course acceptances to this high achieving cohort. In all, 101 graduates were presented to the College community – the largest number since the HSC became the index of senior secondary achievement a generation ago. Both Duxes, Oliver Lenzner and Nicholas Leonard, who achieved the highest possible ATAR of 99.95 along with only 46 other students across Australia, addressed the Assembly and gave the boys the benefit of their wisdom and experience. These are moments to savour, prisms of life to embrace as the boys enter the post-schooling world.
Complementing the busy activities in the day school, nearly 300 boarders have moved into their residential routines of dinner, study and programmed recreation at night and on weekends. It is sometimes forgotten that for the first 43 years of its operation, Riverview was exclusively a boarding school: boys from the bush who came to the city to pursue quality schooling that was not otherwise available in rural Australia in the late 19th and early 20th Century. These young men are currently supported by an army of supervisors, tutors, health care staff, catering, cleaning, laundry and Gartlan staff, as they go about their morning and nightly routines in the boarding houses. Apart from the functional elements of residential and independent living, these young men commit to building community and supporting each other. For our youngest, this is a very new and at times challenging prism of the schooling environment, leaving home as early as 11 and 12 years of age and adjusting to life in one of the great cities of the world – one so very different from life on the land.
The summer co-curricular program, despite the rains, moves into full swing. It is another facet of the whole to which our young men commit and do so across a multitude of activities and settings – on ovals and courts, in pools and theatres, on rivers and in gymnasiums. The better part of 1,600 young men find themselves in training during the week and primed for various interschool competitions on weekends. They cultivate fitness and skills, develop social networks and increase proficiency in a variety of activities that build their own sense of community. Some young men pulled on the Blue and White for the first time on the weekend – a routine that will stay with them over the many years ahead.
There are many more prisms that will appear and be pursued over the weeks ahead. They include Reflection Days, Camps for the boys in Year 5 and 7, Swimming Carnivals, House activities, class excursions, and the list goes on. We are also endeavouring to modify yet continue as many of the programmed activities as possible, mindful of the volatile environment that surrounds us. Many of these events will be conducted in a virtual environment while the COVID threat remains so very real: outward-bound boarding visits and community interfaces with the Parents and Friends (P&F), Past Parents and the Old Ignatians Union (OIU). The external community augments and supports the College in its many endeavours, and we look forward to the day that we can re-instate all school events and the community interface that is inextricably linked to our tradition and culture.
Best wishes for the week ahead.