Headmaster’s Address to Old Boys at Reunion Dinner 2018

Good evening Gentlemen

What an absolute honour it is for me to welcome you all to our annual Reunion/Old Boys Dinner – a special word of welcome to those groups who are celebrating their reunion years. Thank you from coming from far and wide to join us on this special evening and weekend.

Allow me also to welcome the members of the Northwood management team. Thank you for your hard work and support and for being here.

Mr Tony Jordan, headmaster between 1998 and 2012 – thank you for being here and serving many of the men and staff seated here tonight. Please can I ask you to come forward to collect a token of our appreciation.

It is of course a wonderful honour to take over as the headmaster of this fine school. And certainly exiting to be able to share a few words with you tonight.

I was asked, in my interview, what I would aspire to, should I be appointed as the head of the school. My answer was that although I believed Northwood to be a fine school, my aim would be to make it into a great school. An ambitious aim, and certainly too ambitious for one member of the interview panel, who asked me if I believed this to be realistic?

My answer to this was simple, and broadly based on the philosophy of Confusios who said those who believe they can and those who believe they can’t are both right” Will Smith, the famous American actor was also correct, when he pointed out that being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity. Maybe I should repeat that – being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity.

Why would we want to be realistic? Why are we happy to accept that we are a fine school? When we can in fact be great? There is no mystery surrounding what it takes to be great. One does not need to be super talented, exceptional or even incredibly gifted –it is simpler than that absolute dog-like determination, painstaking effort, an absolute commitment to hard work and a resilience to deal with whatever comes our way is enough.

To ensure Northwood goes from good to great we need to ensure absolute quality and opportunity in what we offer, whether it be in the class room, on the sports field or on the cultural stage.

We already produce some stunning results – world class musicals and shows, top class academic achievers, incredible successes after school – to which all of you and a number of our Old Boys in the community is a testament to. Our u14 rugby team goes into tomorrow fixture ranked 2nd in the country, behind only Paarl Gym and, our u16s are 9th, the highest ranking team from KZN.

Yesterday, we also received the good news, that we have 8 boys included in the various provincial age groups.

Our hockey teams continue to excel not only in terms of the results but also in terms of the provincial reps. Our own Keshav Maharaj is performing on the world stage and is now, without a doubt the Proteas top spinner. Our current 1st 11, beat Westville, Kearsney and others and are now a serious force to be reckoned with. It goes on. And we can rightly be proud!

But is all of this enough?

To be great you must be willing to challenge yourself, your systems, your staff, achievements and your processes, without disrespecting the traditions and work that has been gone before. To be great we also need to understand, that if we think we can manage on our own we will not succeed.

Northwood is a community school, where the parents, Old Boys, businesses, leaders and broader community are as significant as the boys. All of these stakeholders and the establishment and nurturing of relationships with them are crucial if the school wants to achieve at the highest level.

My job is to serve the boys, parents, staff and other stakeholders of the school, and as such all of you are welcome to phone me or engage with me at any time. I can guarantee you that your needs and concerns will always be dealt with as a priority.

I want to honour all of you tonight for being here, for the role you play in the community, for the contributions you make to the school, for honouring the traditions of the school through your actions and just generally for taking pride in the fact that you are Old Boys of the school.

I want to urge you tonight to stand with me, the management team, the staff, the boys and the parents as we aim to be great. Your efforts, continued support and contributions are absolutely vital if we want to take the school to where it can be. Let us be absolutely united and determined to be immense in all that we offer and do here at Northwood. This is a special place, and will always be your home.

Enjoy the evening, let your hair down, thank you for being here, thank for listening to me.


Mr Paul Viljoen

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