Founder's Day Opening Remarks by Mrs M. Woods

BY Administrator

Our guest speaker, Lynne (Thomas) Griffiths, from the Class of 1974, has close connections to Uitenhage and I have but the fondest memories of Lynne as Headgirl in 1974 and as our First Team Hockey Captain.   It was my first year of coaching the Senior 1st and 2nd hockey teams, so Lynne was very special to me, as she was such an inspiring, helpful and a totally dedicated young lady.  In fact, Mrs Sally (Watson)Potgieter also an ex-Headgirl (1963) and a member of staff in 1974, was responsible for coaching the 3rd and 4th Senior Hockey Teams, and the two of us had loads of fun, pretending to be “professional” hockey coaches!   Our girls believed that they were Springboks and therefore played accordingly!   


Today marks the 27th Founder’s Day celebration at the school, for which we shall always be grateful to Mrs Natalie Stear (whom I am thrilled to have with us here today as a special guest), who initiated this annual “Birthday Party” in 1988, in her first year as Lady Principal of Riebeek College.  Founder’s Day is always a memorable occasion for all of us, as it unites the past with the present and gives us an opportunity to pay tribute not only to our founder, Dominee Braam Steytler, but also to all the girls, teachers, principals, parents and friends of Riebeek College, over the past 137 years, who have been responsible for the development and growth of our precious school.

In the Hymn, “Let us now Praise Famous Men”, we sang the following words: “Leaders of the people, By their counsels and by their knowledge”.  These words are an apt tribute to our founder, Dominee Steytler.   He was a respected leader of the people of Uitenhage and a man of visionary insight, knowledge and courage, believing in the need for girls to be well educated  in an era when it was not considered important. 


As we celebrate our 137th Birthday of the school, we celebrate with our theme being, “Be your own kind of be-you-tiful”.    Believing in yourself and having good self-esteem is conducive to being able to learn and achieve.   I am pleased to say, everybody has embraced this theme with passion.   As I mentioned in my first assembly this year, to really be beautiful, all that we have to be is the truest form of ourselves.   May we never forget to live beautifully, by honouring what we have learnt over the years at Riebeek College, about the values of the Fruits of the Spirit.    If each one of us is our own kind of beautiful every day, Riebeek College will grow in strength as, an exemplary values-based school.   As Albert Einstein once said, ““Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” 


You will see that Mrs Gerber, our highly efficient and hands on school media officer, has kept up our website and facebook page beautifully.   Old Girls, do yourselves a favour and visit our facebook page.   I have no doubt that you will feel great seeing pride, seeing the  wide variety of activities and the excellent performances of our girls.   This is also a wonderful way of keeping in touch and celebrating with your alma mater.  I am sure that you noticed the building in progress on the side of the admin block.   This is long overdue, as the school was initially built to house 400 girls and at present we have 710 girls at the school.   It has taken us nearly 3 years to get permission for this project, and the school’s Governing Body and Finance Committee in particular, under the chairmanship of Mr Gordon McAuley, need to be congratulated on their perseverance and meticulous planning that has made this dream of mine, become a reality!  It is so exciting.


After last year’s Founder’s Day, Ruth (Hamilton) van Zyl donated a generous amount of money and we had two beautiful benches made that you may have noticed standing on the front verandah of the school.   One was in memory of her mother, Kathleen (Rudman) Hamilton who was secretary at Riebeek from 1952 to 1966. I wish to make brief mention of some of my memories of these classes and what a few of these girls said when they were in matric, in their magazine profiles.   I’m sure that not many of them remember.


Firstly, the youngest group of Old Girls, the Class of 2004, celebrating their 10 year reunion:  I have a very vivid memory of this group when they were Junior School prefects under the Headship of Lee-Anne Bartle. I trained them as a group of cheerleaders and entered them in a Pick ’n Pay competition in PE.  They won the competition, beating all the PE schools.   They won a DSTV recorder and a R1000 cheque. (A lot of money 10 years ago!)    This money was used to buy a fridge, paint, tile, and decorate the Junior prefects’ room, that is still in use today.   Cherise (Louw) Swanepoel, who is now a member of staff, was also in this group.  In this class’s matric profiles in the school magazine, many of them remember the following:   breaks on the wall, Cherise’s skeleton walk (Mrs Swanepoel you will have to show us at assembly one day) climbing through Mrs Stevens’s window, sharing lunch in the sun, more than half the class being kicked out of the English class for being late and drag-racing suitcases down the top corridor.   Sesethu Lungu remembers singing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” for an oral and Hlumela Matika remembers sleeping in Geography!


I also fondly remember a very special young lady who belonged to this group of girls, and that was Amanda Forrest.   She had suffered from the debilitating disease, Cystic Fibrosis since she was nine years old and although she was often reliant on oxygen and tubed nutrition in order to survive, she seldom missed a day’s school…. in her matric year, in particular.   She also went on the Oudtshoorn tour in Grade 7 and we took her wonderful, dedicated mother, Dorothy, and her physiotherapy bed along with us.   Nothing ever stopped Amanda from taking part in as many activities at school as was possible for her, even though just breathing, was a huge effort.    Her positive attitude and dedication to her academics (in which she excelled)and to living life to the full, was an example for everyone at the school.   Sadly, Amanda passed away during her first year at university, but the memory of a sweet, kind and spirited young Riebeek lady, shall be with all who had the privilege of knowing her, forever.   She was a play director in her matric year and we honour her annually with atrophy awarded at the inter-house plays for a cameo performance.


The 2nd youngest group, of Old Girls, the Class of 1994, celebrating their 20 year reunion:  Suzanne (Rudman) Dixie was the Headgirl of both the Hostel and the school and she represented the Springboks as an equestrian show jumper.   I remember that Suzanne travelled to Kentucky in America as part of the South African team and I still have the little magnet that she brought me, on my fridge at Jeffreys Bay.


The 3rd youngest group of Old Girls, the Class of 1989, celebrating their 25 year reunion: The young lady on the cover of the 1989 magazine, is Hendrin (Hamilton) Germishuys.   Hendrin said 

in her matric profile, that she would like to see longer breaks, less homework and would like to be able to eat in class.   Nothing has changed, Hendrin.   In fact, Hendrin’s mother,  Mrs Ronel Hamilton, was one of my favourite teachers when I was in Std 6 (Grade 8) at Riebeek.   I clearly remember Mrs Hamilton climbing up on the teacher’s table when she was trying to teach us how the earth revolves around the sun…..i think.   She was an awesome teacher, Hendrin! Natalie (Bright) Wilmot, said in her matric profile that she would love to see school start later in the morning.   Natalie, I just want to tell you that all the girls of today, will support you on this suggestion.   They are given demerits for being late in the morning nowadays, and when they accumulate too many, they go to detention.  So…..we continue to try and instil responsible sense of punctuality.  Lauren (Gouws) Frueholtz said that she felt strongly about the institution of a free period for matrics and would also like to see SA create more opportunities for talented people – a South African Hollywood!   Lauren’s mother, Anne Bubb, was in my class at school, and my best friend. Desiree (Enslin) Jewell said that she would like the girls to be allowed to grow their nails and would like to transfer the Republic of South Africa to the Caribbean!


The class of 1969 celebrating their 45 year reunion is the class that matriculated the year after me, so I have fond memories of many of these ladies, as friends, as members of the hockey team and many other activities.  Pam (Pieters) de Villiers and Jean (Miller) Baker , and I all lived in the same neighbourhood and were great friends.   It is very special to have you here with us today, ladies.


Then,  the class of 1964 celebrating their 50 year reunion.   What a remarkable achievement!  I met two of these girls,  Ria (Botha) Meyer and Jenny (Allen) Anderson in the foyer the other day putting up a display of their class of ’64.   They looked a bit parched, so I offered them a nice cup of tea.   They were most grateful and merrily carried on putting up their photographs.       I also remember Joselie (Knoesen) Biggs and Zingra (Ellis) Hanley as 2 passionate boarders and hockey players.   Patricia (Elliot) Hagerman, was an outstanding swimmer and represented the province on many occasions.   This group has been joined by Wendy (Collier) Robinson, whose sister, Jenny was in my class at school and Burleigh (Lombard) Tunbridge from the class of 1963, who have both been staunch supporters of our Founder’s Day since its inception.

To all you other grand ladies here this morning, thank you for taking the time and making the effort to be with us today.   Each and every one of you is special to us and without your wonderful support, this day would not be so memorable. 


So today, ladies, gentlemen and girls, we give thanks to our God for this school, for our founders and governors,  for those of us who teach and those of us who learn, for being keen in spirit so that we may diligently serve the community in which we live so that it’s people may be prospered in all their works and in all good living. To all our friends and guests here today;  May they find among us kindness, courtesy and consideration.

I need to remind you that once a Riebeek Girl,…………..always a Riebeek girl.


 June 03, 2014
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