In the last two weeks, two of my special friends and colleagues from Auckland Girls’ Grammar School have died. Both joined the staff of AGGS in 1966, and were in senior positions with me during 1978-88.
Elaine Craig was my deputy principal for ten years, and stood in for me as principal four times when I was overseas or on Education Department business. She was a spirited, capable woman, a superb organiser and administrator, with a wicked sense of humour, and deep compassion for teachers needing support. She was also an outstanding science teacher, remembered by many students for her ability to make chemistry and biology come alive, and to help them see the relevance of their learning to their lives. She was an absolutely supportive colleague to me, able to challenge as well as willing to implement changes.
I will always remember the time she came into my office when I was feeling particularly sad, for personal reasons. She looked at me, then came around the desk, gave me a hug, and said “You know we love you, don’t you?” Many staff and students over the years will remember her fondly.
In my first term or two as Principal, Pat Ward was the staff member I spent most time with. In addition to being head of physics, one of only a handful of woman physics teachers in the country at the time, she was in charge of the school timetable, and worked with me to implement a number of changes, including the development of an extensive Community Service Programme in the senior school. Pat had a fine sense of humour, strong social conscience and was a staunch supporter of action for social justice. Behind the scenes, she gave both coaching and financial support to senior students striving for science careers.
She was very widely read, and in her calm and quiet way rejoiced in political discussion. She also took part willingly in action for social change- through PPTA for improvements in education, and in attempts to prevent and disrupt the Springbok Tour in 1981.
Both these women had strong family commitments, and their own personal challenges, during the time I worked with them, and both contributed enormously to students and staff. We have continued to be friends in the 30 years since I left AGGS.
In the last year, both have suffered physical deterioration – Elaine was 90, and Pat 94, after all. They each died in care, supported by family members, within 36 hours of each other, and their funerals were on Monday 9 and Wednesday 11 September respectively.
AGGS was strongly represented by a number of former staff at both funerals. A group of Kahurangi students sang most movingly at the conclusion of Elaine’s Requiem Mass
It was a privilege for me to speak at both services; I am relieved that both are free of discomfort and debility now; and I am grieving for the loss of them.