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Stories of Resilience and Adapting to Change

If there’s one thing that the past few weeks have taught us, it’s this: when the world changes, the Waverley College culture and community spirit remains strong.

"There is no institution I've heard of anywhere that binds its members as closely with the bonds of sincere friendship as does Waverley College."

Old Boy, 1943 Annual

1960s College fundraising collateral

1960s College fundraising collateral

During the 117 years that Waverley College has been educating the young men of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, there have been world wars, technological advancements and global pandemics.

Change brings challenge. We must adapt. And this is a challenge that the students, parents and staff of Waverley College have risen to through the eras. Our archives tell the story of our community’s resilience journey. From history’s most devastating crises to society’s biggest breakthroughs, here is a selection of the most inspiring examples of Waverley spirit…

Archives - Waverley Old Boys who served in WWI

Waverley Old Boys who served in WWI

1914-1918: WWI

Almost 200 Waverley Old Boys served in WWI. In 1915, Headmaster Br Stephen Turpin’s Annual Report praised students’ ‘patriotic spirit’ for choosing to donate their prize money and school premiums to the War Fund in a ‘self-sacrificing act’ to help wounded soldiers. Waverley families also poured their efforts into care packages.

Today, you can still see the marble honour board that hangs outside the Conlon building, which was funded by the Old Boys’ Union after the war.

Archives and history - Old Boy and RAAF Flight Sergeant J. Roper, WWII

Old Boy and WWII RAAF Flight Sergeant J.Roper

1939 – 1945: WWII

Following WWI, over 470 Waverley Old Boys served in WWII. The College sent two relief packages a year to former students who were serving on the front lines and held a monthly Mass to celebrate the lives of the fallen.

The Old Boys’ Union raised funds for building the War Memorial Chapel and Hall, as well as for the commemorative stone that honours the fallen and still stands in the library today.

In 1943, an Old Boy said:

“There is no institution I’ve heard of anywhere that binds its members as closely with the bonds of sincere friendship as does Waverley College.”

1970s AV studios

1970s AV studios

The 1970s: TV in Education

Technology really started to advance in the post-war years, and mainstream TV was launched in Australia in 1956. By 1970, the College had announced that it was ‘riding the technological wave’ with an exciting development on campus: AV production studios.

TV could now be integrated into any lesson at any time, simply by pushing a button. As there weren’t many resources available in this new format, teachers had to diversify by creating and producing their own educational film material. Many even returned to university to upskill in this area.

Andrew Houghton, a former Channel 9 employee, was hired to run the AV studios, which were in the Middle School (now the Kenny building). He commended the Waverley community for embracing the adjustment during a demonstration at The School Library Association of NSW General Meeting:

“Television can frequently present facts and concepts in a manner more readily assimilated by the student… and excite his desire to learn.

There may still be doubts in some minds about the wisdom of using television in schools. These doubts are generally held by people who grew up with radio – no such doubts exist in the minds of our students.”

Jethro Jensen from Class 6 Gold - 2020 Writing Competition

Jethro Jensen, Class 6 Gold - 2020 Junior School online writing competition

2020: COVID-19

Fast forward to the present day. On Monday, 23 March, NSW State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that schools would move to an online mode of learning in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 – a global pandemic caused by a new virus.

By Wednesday, 25 March, we were delivering lessons remotely through Google Classroom. Within two days, the whole Waverley community – students, parents, teachers and support staff – had successfully transitioned to working and learning from home.

Our Principal, Graham Leddie, shared his thoughts in the Nurrunga newsletter, on Thursday, 2 April:

The usual energy and clamour of inspired young minds at work, which usually fill our corridors and quadrangle is eerily absent at Waverley…

We can find some more control of this situation through acceptance…

I can be grateful that we can still connect through the technology we have, which brings us back together to a Waverley that can adapt, respond and remain united.