Home Headmaster HM Newsletter: 23 April

Dear ParentsHM 2011

I have a great appreciation for apples and what it takes to grow them. Back in the day, and typical of our teenage mentality, when my cousin and I were helping ourselves to apples from our neighbour's tree in the dead of night, there was no thought given to the biblical verse that one reaps what one sows.

Of the two actions mentioned in this statement - we were clearly engaging in the harvesting without appreciation for the hard work that our neighbour had put into the cultivation of his precious apple tree. However, when our neighbour's dog alerted "Oom Piet" to the fact that something was amiss and he confronted us with our "loot", we soon found out, to our dismay, that the two weeks of hard holiday labour in his garden cast "sowing" in a new light.

I have a belief that Hilton offers a fertile opportunity to sow the seeds of any dream that a boy may have but for many, once that action is completed, there is often a resting phase of anticipation that a harvest will simply materialize with the minimum of hard work. And so many dreams unfortunately disappear like the Hilton mist as the sun warms the campus simply because the time, effort, dedication, belief and commitment is lacking.

It is the first day of term and the Memorial Hall is packed with neat rows of boys with their white Fleur-de-Lys highlighted on their chest pockets, as we welcome to our opening school assembly, Francois Kassier, our 2011 Dux and Scholar of the Year who achieved an incredible 10 subject distinctions and was placed in the Outstanding Achievement category of IEB Schools. There are gasps of amazement as I not only congratulate him but also announce that he has been offered, and has accepted, a full tuition and boarding scholarship to the fourth ranked university in the world, the prestigious Yale University in America for 2012. When I add that there were 29 000 applicants of which only 1 360 freshmen were accepted, that Francois was one of only 110 international students accepted, that the staff ratio is 5:1 and 60% of the classes have 10 students or less, there is thunderous and sustained applause as he comes forward to be congratulated.

Yes, Francois has talent, ability and a dream but through it all he applied himself with dedication, hard work and commitment. He will be a success at Yale and many of our present boys will be inspired by the talk that he gave in the Assembly to achieve similar dreams.

Back in my office, further news is that Solanke Onasanya has been accepted at the Georgia Institute of Technology in America where he will be studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. His email states that his dream is to complete his studies at Stanford University. This is further inspiration for our boys that all things are possible if you have a dream and are prepared to work hard. They follow closely on the heels of Daniel Meyer at Caltech University - these young men have set the standard and have provided the challenge; now it is up to many of our boys to follow in their footsteps and aim to be accepted to the top universities in the world.

As I reflect on these things, ultimately it makes little difference where you learn about hard work, and yes it may be in cultivating apple trees, but the fact remains that hard work is an underlying key to success. Next Friday our Grade 8 and 12 parents will meet the staff members that teach their sons, and I certainly entertain the expectation that you, the parents, will ask probing questions regarding the level of industrious intent of your sons in each of their classes.

Continuing my thoughts on matters academic, our Deputy Head, Lynne McMillan, has decided to take early retirement from the end of the second term. Her association with Hilton College has indeed been a long and distinguished one with a particularly enormous contribution to the academic standard of this institution. We will certainly miss her experience and contribution in the roles she presently guides, and will shortly announce arrangements regarding her portfolios.

I am also encouraged by the exceptional quality of staff that we are able to attract to Hilton College and I am pleased to announce two new appointments to the academic staff. Catherine Robinson will join the French Department from Kloof High School where she was Head of French. Prior to this, she lectured French at UKZN. Catherine will join us on 1st June as Manuela von Maltzahn leaves us at mid-term. Sizo Mkhize leaves the Zulu Department to take up a head of department post at Michaelhouse, and he will be replaced by Thulani Mhlongo from Clifton College where he has been Head of Zulu. He has a Masters degree in Educational Technology. Thulani previously taught at Northwood and Glenwood. He is married with one child and will start at the beginning of Term 3. We look forward to welcoming Catherine and Thulani to Hilton College, and to the contribution that they will undoubtedly make.

As I enjoy the privilege of having lunch with the Chairman of the SA Rugby Legends, Gavin Varejes, Joost van der Westhuizen, Wayne Fyvie, Hentie Martens and rugby staff, I, a hockey soaked veteran, reflect on the interesting journey I have been on in familiarizing myself with the rugby culture and the people that make rugby the game of importance that it is in this country. I am stunned by the passion these men have for rugby, and how they contribute and put back what they obtained from the sport.

"You cannot wait to do something tomorrow - you must do it with all your heart now!" The speech is slurred due to the motor-neuron disease but the blue eyes sparkle, the smile engages and the message is clear as Joost acknowledges a standing ovation from the boys of Hilton College.

Have a great week!

G Thomson