It is with great sadness I begin this edition of Duce with a reference to the passing of our wonderful friend and colleague, Brian Coulthard. However, in taking this opportunity to remember Brian and his tremendous contributions to Lasallian education both here and in New Zealand we are provided with a reminder of a beautiful man and a life well lived.
Brian came to us just over ten years ago after leaving the UK and working for a number of years at Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth, New Zealand, also a Lasallian school. He was a man of great humility, of essential gentleness and in his own quiet and unassuming way a man of great example. Overwhelmingly positive, always with a kind word and a cheery greeting, Brian very quickly built a terrific rapport with his students and colleagues at Malvern. His main role was VCE Physics but he taught many classes of Year 7 — 10 Science as well. Brian will be remembered by his students as a wise, talented and patient teacher, passionate about Science and well versed in that most critical of teachers’ skills — developing positive and meaningful professional relationships with the boys under his tutelage.
I visited Brian in his home just days before his death and despite the inevitability surrounding his condition, he was cheerful, resolute, brave and very grateful for the care and attention of his family and many friends. Brian was very appreciative of the many cards, best wishes and messages from so many in the De La Salle community. He found the outpouring of affection and concern for his health very humbling and my main memory from my last conversation with Brian was his positive attitude. There was no self‐pity, just a recognition of the fact he had a wonderful family and many great friends and colleagues who cared deeply for him, something he clearly treasured in his final days. Brian and his wife Rosie have been for a long time devoted parishioners at St Joseph’s in Malvern and their faith has been of immense support and comfort during the cruel battle with leukaemia.
It is in difficult times such as this where a community turns inward and looks after its own. Our Chaplain, Mrs Joan Ferguson has been a wonderful support to Brian and Rosie, visiting regularly and being by their side when needed most in the very difficult final weeks and at the end. With the news coming to school that the end was near for Brian, many staff and students were distressed and this was only compounded when we heard Brian had succumbed. I must thank Mrs Rana Brogan, Deputy Principal — Faith and Mission and Mr Tom Ryan, Deputy Principal — Staff and Operations and Joan for their experience, expertise and planning around supporting our community through prayer and liturgy for staff and students, organising our counsellors to be available, setting up the two chapels with a memorial for Brian and assisting in managing the day on Friday when the news came through. Our staff felt the loss keenly but were of wonderful support to each other in our hour of need.
When listening to the Gospel reading in Mass on Sunday, I was struck by the synergy between Brian’s life and Jesus’ use of the metaphor of the shepherd. An analysis of the passage suggests Jesus used the metaphor of the shepherd to indicate vigilance in care and attention. Brian was certainly the epitome of this in his dealing with his students. It is not unusual for a young man to lose his way here and there in Physics or Science – somewhat like a sheep – and in his perceptive manner, Brian was able to provide direction to help his students get back on track. A good teacher, like a good shepherd knows how to observe and listen, to read the signs and gently advise or put in place measures to assist in finding the right path.
The Gospel of the good shepherd and its parallel with Brian’s work and indeed that of all effective educators extended my thinking around the issue of guidance, direction and choices. The Gospel line, “You had gone astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your soul,” of course has a significant religious message. However, I believe it also has direct relevance in so many other avenues of education at De La Salle. The Gospel message is about Jesus offering himself as guide and guardian for our souls. If we look, He is always there, providing a prompt for better decisions and forgiving our unwise choices.
While the Gospel may resonate more with some than others, there remains an important message for all in a school environment. So much of our work at De la Salle, arguably the most significant and important work, is keeping our young men on track to ensure they are developing good habits and a frame of mind to achieve their best. Our teachers, especially the wellbeing teams, devote an incredible amount of time, effort and resources into monitoring our boys’ learning progress and wellbeing, identifying issues and implementing interventions to support their improvement. I’m sure some of you will have already received emails around learning or behavioural concerns via the new system on Synergetic. Like the shepherd in the Gospel, it is our job to be ready when one of our charges strays and be there to put in place procedures to ensure a correction of mind and spirit. This new system of intervening when students’ work habits or learning progress flag a concern has the potential to markedly improve outcomes.
Last Thursday evening I attended an Associated Catholic Colleges function at Mazenod College, where a range of staff from various ACC schools were acknowledged for their outstanding contribution to ACC sport and the arts. Our very own Gerard Barns was presented with his award for 22 years of ACC sports coaching at Malvern. Gerard has coached at least two sports every year in his career at De La Salle and often up to four. Football, cricket, athletics, hockey and soccer have been his staples and we estimate Gerard has coached at least 50 different teams in his time here! Congratulations Gerard and thank you from the College and the hundreds of boys who have benefited from your skills enthusiasm and generosity of time and spirit.
Last week we celebrated Mother’s Day with the now, traditional breakfast, seeing a record crowd of 550! A heartfelt thank you to Mrs Cate Robertson and Mr Eric Quitt from the extraordinarily hardworking Parent Network Committee who once again organised a superb function. Thank you to Runaway Cupcakes in Malvern, Pentel, Liza and Albert Zago, Silver Maple and Cooper & Milla’s in Toorak for their support of the event. Mrs Michelle Gotch, past mum to three Old Collegians was our guest speaker, giving an excellent presentation of her years as a De La mum, her wonderful and very enjoyable years of support to the Old Colls Footy Club and now her integral role in the establishment of the first De La women’s footy team. College Captain, James Biviano, spoke beautifully about the importance of all mums and especially his own mum, Jenny, who was quite justifiably shedding a little tear. This has really become a flagship event for the community and a magnificent occasion to demonstrate all that is great about the partnership between students, parents and staff at De La Salle. Keep an eye out for the Father’s Day breakfast, sure to be just as popular!
Speaking of mums and football, this Saturday 13 May is the annual Ladies Lunch at the De La Salle Old Collegians Football Club with two excellent guest speakers. Please see the attached flyer for further information and booking details.
Mr Peter Houlihan