A word from the Headmaster... | Wellington College

A word from the Headmaster...

Headmaster’s Prizegiving Speech, 2017

Mr Peter Schuyt, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, members of the Board, the Honourable Grant Robertson, distinguished guests, parents and whanau, members of the staff and, most importantly, gentlemen of Wellington College.  It is for me, a very genuine privilege and honour to present the annual Headmaster’s report, the 150th in the distinguished history of the College, and my twenty-third as your Headmaster.

Introductory Statement

Our 150th Celebrations have been a truly memorable milestone for the Wellington College community, reuniting old friends and showcasing the very best of what our current students have to offer.  The talent displayed under the marquee on that glorious Saturday afternoon provided a veritable cornucopia of musical and artistic ability that will stay in my memory forever.  Significant milestones, however, are always a reminder of the words of the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus who said famously, 2500 years ago there is nothing permanent except change.  For all of us, life goes in seasons.  Tom Paxton, that doyen of American folk singers, adapted the words of the book of Ecclesiastes and wrote the song made famous by The Byrds, “Turn Turn Turn”.  The first two lines say this

            To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven

            A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap.

As we review our history at Wellington College, there is so much of which we can be proud.  I touched on this at the 150th Assembly when I alluded to the image of light which is central to our school motto, Lumen Accipe et Imperti, “Receive the light and pass it on.”  I suggested that the light to which we refer, is evocative of four timeless features of our heritage at Wellington College – enduring values, the pursuit of knowledge, a love of the arts and sport and the imperative of service.  It is my profound conviction that such key emphases should continue.  As well as reflecting on what has gone before, however, it is equally vital that we should look forward with eagerness to new seasons.  President John F Kennedy, whose life was tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet said this:

Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or to the present are certain to miss the future.

My stint as Headmaster is rapidly coming to an end.  The role has been an unbelievable privilege but it is now time for a change and for another leader to receive the light that I will be passing on.  With the anticipation of a new season for the school in mind, I would suggest respectfully that our great College should eagerly anticipate three special opportunities.

First, the unlimited potential afforded the College by the opening of our new Memorial Hall and Performing Arts Centre.  We know how difficult it has been to celebrate success and meet together in less than adequate surroundings - tonight is a case in point.  This marvellous new venue, taking shape in front of our eyes, will provide a stunning auditorium in which our musicians, our dancers, our Kapa Haka and our Pasifika Group, can perform with confidence and where those who have succeeded in all avenues of school endeavour, may receive their due recognition.  The magnificent memorial window, a permanent symbol of our history, will find a welcome new home in this magnificent building which points the way to our future.

Second, the College will have a new Headmaster, undoubtedly full of energy and new ideas.  All institutions, including schools, are in need of constant renewal and I know that those returning next year will very quickly transfer to your new Headmaster, the loyalty I feel from you.  New leadership will be exciting and, no doubt, will provide someone much closer in age to our Prime Minister than to me.

And finally, I hope that you young men of Wellington College will continue to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a ‘good man’ in the world which you will soon be leading – good men who are respectful, not afraid to show compassion and willing to make a stand for that which  is decent and honourable.  At the Music Department evening I was very moved by a song performed by The Chorale which you will hear later.  The last verse says this

            I will arise to love, I will arise to lead,

            I will arise to serve no matter what the need,

            Not by might or power, but with gentleness of heart,

            With courage and compassion, I will gladly do my part,

            The time is now for someone to take a stand!

            I am that Man.



NZ Scholarship Examinations

As we have become accustomed, although should never take it for granted, our students performed spectacularly well again in the 2016 New Zealand Scholarship Examinations, winning 161 scholarships of which 29 were at the Outstanding Level.  Three of our students, Sebastian On, Oliver Sutcliffe and Yiannis Fam, a Year 12 student, were all names as Premier Scholars, the award given to the top ten students in the country.  Another five students, Jordan Barrett, Barnard Patel, Hansaka Ranaweera, Matthew Robertson and Michael Williamson, were all named as Outstanding Scholars, in the next group of 50 students after the Premier Scholars.  Three of our students were named as Top Subject Scholars, Taine Forster in Accounting, Oliver Sutcliffe in Classical Studies and Alexander Sharples in Latin.  Overall, the 78 students who won scholarships equalled the best in the country.  While our young men are to be congratulated on their achievements, I must mention also the commitment of my dedicated and determined staff without whom these results simply would not be realised.

The Arts

In describing the importance of The Arts in our society, JFK said this:

If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

I am delighted to see so many young men at Wellington College pursuing their artistic dreams.  Our Music Department continues to thrive, both in the numbers participating and the quality of performance.  The Wellington College Chorale, The Barbershop Chorus, The Jazz Band, The Orchestra, The Combined Choir, The Concert Band, the Ukulele Orchestra and the various rock groups all play their part in ensuring that music has centre stage at Wellington College.  I have mentioned the superb performances on the Saturday of our 150th.  Equally memorable were the performances of our Kapa Haka Group, Te Haeata Awatea, and our Pasifika Group, both on the Saturday afternoon and also at the 150th Assembly.  It is so uplifting to see passionate young men celebrating a deep sense of pride, both in their culture and their College.

Our Debating Club continues to attract a very large number of members, and this year, our Premier A team won the Wellington Regional Premier Collegiate Championship, the first time this feat has been achieved in the last five years.  In Drama, a very talented group of actors performed a popular scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a highly entertaining manner, which saw them win the regional competition and go through to the national Sheilah Winn Festival.

And deserved winner of our Arts Group of the Year was our Stage Challenge entry, History Repeats.  Like the World Vision Runathon, no school activity represents better the very essence of being a Coll Boy than this panorama of colour, sound and movement which draws together students of different backgrounds, right across the spectrum.

Our Cultural Extravaganza, held in conjunction with Wellington Girls’ College, was another magnificent showpiece of the talent that we have at our respective schools, of artists, who in JFK’s words are ‘free to follow their own vision’.


Just as our young men have performed with great distinction in The Arts, so too have they in sport.  After last year’s Prizegiving, our 1st XI cricket went on to win the local competition for the first time since 2008.  The team is undefeated in its traditional games this year and is well-placed as it approaches the business end of the 2017 competition.  Winning the McEvedy Shield is always a significant boost for the College at the start of the year and this year’s team won by a record margin.  In Tennis, our Senior A team performed beyond expectations in the national tournament, losing the final by the narrowest of margins on a countback to the heavily favoured Scots College.  The team is hopeful of going one better in 2018.  At the Maadi Cup, our small team of twenty rowers performed superlatively, reaching eight ‘A’ finals and winning two medals.  These results are stunning when one considers the rough water of the Wellington Harbour on which our rowers have to train.

In the winter season, our teams performed with real heart and determination, even when the odds were sometimes stacked against them.  Our 1st XV enjoyed a very good season, narrowly losing the 1st XV final to an excellent St Patrick’s (Silverstream) side that had beaten us comfortably in the Traditional.  The 1st XI Football had a mixed season in the local competition, but fought back strongly to finish a very creditable tenth at the national tournament.  Our Cross Country team won all local and regional competitions, with the Under 16 team winning silver at the National Championships.  Three of our other senior teams entered the Wellington final as underdogs and emerged as victors.  The Senior A Underwater Hockey team defeated HIBS, despite having been defeated on a number of occasions earlier in the season.  Similarly, the 1st XI Hockey had been beaten on no fewer than four occasions by Paraparaumu College and as recently as two weeks before the final, by 6 – 2.  On a chilly, but unforgettable Friday night, the 1st XI fought tooth and nail to be 1 – 1 at full-time.  In a tension-packed period of ‘Golden goal’, College won against the odds with a miraculous back-flick which sent our many supporters into ecstasy.  And who can forget the amazing Basketball final when our Captain, Sione Helu, sunk a basket five seconds from time to defeat our old nemesis, St. Patrick’s (Town), and win the Premiership for the first time since 1994.  ‘The crowd went wild’!  An honourable mention is worthy, too, of a couple of sports which are less in the limelight.  Our Fencing team were winners of both the Central Region and New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Foil Championships, and our shooting team won the Wellington Championships, and came third in the New Zealand Championships.  It is, indeed, gratifying, to see hundreds of our young men proudly representing the College week in, week out. 

Just last evening, eight of our sportsmen were named as winners in their respective categories at the Wellington Sportsperson of the Year awards.  Isaac Becroft in Tennis, Joseph Lynch in Orienteering, Naitoa Ah Kuoi in Rugby, Elian Pagalilawan in Karate, Kalin Letoa in Touch, Toshiaki Yasuda in Table Tennis, Ricky Kiddle in Rowing and Cameron Manual Arnold in Underwater Hockey.  There was one other award made last night, and I know this will be a very popular one – Volunteer of the Year was awarded to Mr Rob Corliss for his 39 years of service to sport at Wellington College.


Just as so many of our young men are involved in extra-curricular activities, so too are they involved in service to the community.  It was one of my favourite authors, Charles Dickens, who said

            No-one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.

Once again, our annual Runathon was a wonderful event, raising over $60,000 for World Vision.  It is an occasion which brings out the very best in our students, combining entrepreneurial spirit with a great sense of fun and a focus on those overseas who are struggling to survive.  Throughout the year, students are also involved in other community events and collections, as well as acting as Peer Support leaders, academic tutors and coaches of sports teams.  Barack Obama said memorably

The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.  Don’t wait for good things to happen to you.  If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.


Mr. Peter Schuyt has paid tribute to his colleagues on the Board of Trustees who have given so much of their time in what has been a particularly busy year.  With the appointment of my successor a priority, there is still work to be done before that selection is confirmed by the end of the year.  On a very personal level, I am very sad that Peter will also be leaving his role as Chairman.  He has given extraordinary service to the College as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2010, and as the Board Chair since 2012.  His wisdom, patience, kindness and decisiveness have been without peer and as Headmaster, I have been the most fortunate beneficiary of his support through good times and bad.  On behalf of the College community, Peter, I wish you and Tracey all the very best in your next ventures.  It is also appropriate to thank our wonderful Chair of the College Parents, Carolyn Coldstream, for the admirable job she and her committee have done in supporting so many school events.  Sincere thanks also to the various parent-run committees without whom our ever-expanding extra-curricular programme could not run.

For Those Who Are Leaving

There are many seniors here this evening for whom this will be your final assembly.  As I suggested a little earlier in my speech, this is an exciting time in your life as you make your own choices about future directions.  A little advice from a Headmaster in his final prizegiving address.

Inscribed on the ancient temple of Apollo at Delphi, were the Greek words, ‘Gnothi seauton’, which, translated into English, means ‘know yourself’.  The ancient philosopher, Plato, later expounded on these words when he said “the unexamined life is not worth living”.  When you leave school, it is all so easy to go with the crowd and be influenced by what everyone else is doing.  My encouragement to you is to seek out that moral and ethical framework which guides you in life’s decisions.  There will be tough times.  The hero of the pre-war Berlin Olympics was Jesse Owens, the Afro-American, whose four gold medals on the track were a profound rebuttal to Hitler’s odious racist philosophy.  But even as a national hero in 1936, Owens did not find it easy in post-war American where Afro-Americans still faced deep discrimination.  He said the following words

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals.  The struggles within yourself – the invisible battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.

Go out and make a difference.  Make the right choices, even when it is easier to choose the path most travelled.  In the wonderful words of the Canadian proverb.

The salmon swimming upstream against the current at least knows that he is alive.

Good luck in the forthcoming examinations and a very joyous Christmas and Happy New Year to all.


Roger J Moses  ONZM, M.A. (HONS), L.T.C.L, FNZIM