In his collection of essays in the book ‘Outliers’, Malcolm Gladwell writes about a series of statistical anomalies. In his first chapter he describes the mystery of the town called Roseto Valforte, which is situated 160 kilometres southeast of Rome in the Apennine foothills. The people of this town stand out because of their health and longevity. In the 1880s eleven Rosetans emigrated to America and established a foothold on a rocky hillside near the town of Bangor in Pennsylvania. The promise of economic opportunity meant that by the 1890s, 1,200 Rosetans had packed up and settled on this same rocky hillside. Soon the collection of houses grew into a town which they called Roseto to honour the place where they had come from. The town’s population remained relatively homogenous having been largely populated by Rosetan immigrants.
In the 1950s, the medical world, through a young physician named Stewart Wolf, started to take notice of an interesting phenomenon in the town. The people who lived in Roseto had amazing health even into old age. Wolf tested a number of hypotheses to find out why this was so. Through careful research he discovered that the health of the Rosetans was not due to diet, location or even genetics. The secret, he discovered, was due to the sense of community that existed in the town. You only had to walk down the street to realise this; people were gathered in conversation on porches, were sharing meals with each other in homes, or were simply stopped on the side of the street and having a chat. Everyone felt a part of something bigger and was warmly embraced by the other members of the town.
In the same way, the community that is St Peter’s College is important for the wellbeing of every member in it. Also, vitally important are a number of groups that are active in supporting and nurturing this community. Last Friday I attended the inaugural Mother and Son Breakfast organised by the Senior School Friends of Saints. It was a fantastic addition to our calendar and something that I know will continue long into the future. The Friends of Saints, led by their chair Samantha Allan, are active in inviting people into the Saints family through a variety of ways. One such way, is through the Bottle and Plate nights they organise throughout the year. These are informal occasions for parents whose sons are in a particular year level. Parents can get together and enjoy each other’s company and perhaps discuss the joys, (or conversely some of the difficulties), specific to the students in that year. On Saturday at Head of the River I had a quick chat with Michael and Michelle Wetherall. Michael is president of the Boarding Parent Support Group, a committee that was inaugurated this year to support boarding at Saints. One of the aims of that group is to ensure that all new boarder families feel connected to the School as soon as possible. Michelle decided that she would ring every new family at the start of the year to achieve that goal. What an incredible way to invite people in!
These are but two examples of the myriad of ways in which people are tirelessly working to bring us all together. The success of their work, and of our efforts to engage and contribute to the community is evidenced in a number of ways. It’s shown through our engagement in the big School occasions such as Community Day, concerts, and dinners. It’s displayed by the sustained connection to the School of our old scholars and their profound interest in and love for the School. It’s revealed by the multiple friends groups who give both time and thought to aid the programs that we run at Saints. We are a strong community and are brilliant at celebrating what that means. We come together when times are good, but it is equally true to say that the strength of this community is even clearer during the tough times.
As Tim has indicated in his article, now is precisely the time that we need to pull together as we support the Bone family in this time of great sadness.
Let’s never take our community for granted.
Pro Deo et Patria.
Ben Hanisch, Deputy Headmaster/Head of Senior School
Photo: Georgina Norman with her two sons, Josh Wilson (Year 9) and James Wilson (Year 4), at the Mother and Son breakfast.