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What it means to be an Old Collegian

What it means to be an Old Collegian

Collegian is such a very old word, in its ancient way describing a partnership. Not all partnerships work out but in my case this one has. You don’t necessarily understand where an old partnership will lead, and when I entered Wesley I could not have predicted how deep my love for it would become by the time of my teary departure. We casually throw around the word “collegian” as though it describes something that happens to you afterwards, yet its meaning is one of rich experience and bonding. When you join a place or institution, you become a “collegian” immediately, making what you will of that partnership.

In ancient times this would have simply meant that a teacher is prepared to teach those prepared to learn. But to be sure, it is a two-way experience. Fortunately for me, my teachers at Wesley took very seriously that arrangement. I did too, and with my continuing teacher-friends I remain collegial.

Another blessing is the window that opens when you meet a fellow collegian. In most cases the guard is down and there is more honesty because there are shared experiences and a shared culture that unites. Age doesn’t seem to alter this, as young and old collegians seem to fascinate each other.

One of the highlights of my Wesley life was speaking at the Junior Founders’ Day Assembly at Elsternwick this year, which provided an opportunity to share some Wesley history with a young audience. But for me it also meant clarifying what it means to be an Old Collegian. I remember hearing from Old Collegians at assemblies in the same way that I fondly remember many of my teachers being Old Collegians. In the style of the English Public School we added “Old” to “Collegian,” indicating that we have left the school but as all who leave are not “Old” it isn’t an easy sell to young ears in this century. Being introduced as the College Head of the Old Wesley Collegians Association (OWCA) made me feel that some translation was required for the young audience, who most likely had no idea what those words meant. After all, the words are much older than our 150-year-old school. So I explained that there was a club and that when they finished their time at Wesley they would all join that club. I told them that I was in charge of the I Went to Wesley Club which certainly got their attention. I think they all agreed there and then that they couldn’t wait to join, allowing them to take Wesley beyond Wesley. Perhaps the I Went to Wesley Club has something to offer, but to be an Old Collegian and to be part of the OWCA, requires so much more of my precious education to interpret its deepest significance.

Ian Thomas, College Head of OWCA