Founders' Day - Dr Charles Jenkinson

Alumni News Thursday, 08 Sept 2022

As part of the Secondary Founders' Day celebrations, Class of 2002 Alumni and Head Boy, Dr Charles Jenkinson, spoke to the students about what Founders' Day means to him.

Charles, now a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, is one of the original students when the School first started in 1991. He spoke to the students about what the School means to him, the sense of community it has and how important those schooling years are.

Below is a copy of his speech, the students enjoyed every word he had to say and were extremely inspired. Thank you again Charles, we loved having you speak!

Dr Charles Jenkinson 

It's been 20 years since I spoke from this podium -  with Mrs Bianca Baker, then Bianca Hall,  in our final address as Head Prefects.  We explained how as a community, our Class of 2002 were now on our journey beyond our green blazers, long  socks, and tartan ties.  We presented our year’s gift to the School, that jarrah cross, hanging on the wall over here.  

Mandurah was different in the late 90s and early 2000s – it was quieter, more peaceful.   I realise that now, having lived and worked in Perth and Sydney for the last two decades.  But the sense of community here feels just as strong in 2022 as it did in 1991 when, dressed in a green shirt and knee high socks, I rocked up for the very first day that Frederick Irwin Anglican Community School opened its doors.  

30 years ago there weren’t many options for schooling in this town – and I say town because Mandurah wasn’t even yet a city when I met Mrs McCullough, our Head of Primary, for my interview.  Mrs McCullough knew that building a new school needed the efforts of everyone.  Our parents, grandparents, and friends volunteered at the canteen, ran the photocopier, and even made our house faction badges. 

I remember in our first week sitting at assembly, in the old Primary School up where D&T and Art now stand.  There were only 130 of us.  Mrs McCullough told us our house factions by reading out the name of every single student in the school.  This is how tight-knit, how small we were – can you imagine now, having the names of the entire school read out at Assembly?  I found myself in Gordon House, and was House Assistant in Year 6, and House Vice Captain in Year 7. 

Mr Winter was our House Leader when I entered high school - though I hear he has now defected to Rose.  Let me tell you, he was the Mighty Green Machine’s biggest fan in our day! 

Like many others, the school community involved my whole family.  My brother, Brett Jenkinson, started Kindy in 1992, and he was Head Boy in 2004 – we were the first siblings to both hold that office.  My mother, Mrs Merrilyn Jenkinson, was Secretary to the Principal,  until 2008.  I married Clare Wood from the Class of 2003, and we now have two girls, Cora and Georgia.  We no longer live down this way, but we still argue about whether our girls would have been in Gordon or Jamieson. 

Along the way, our community was lead by remarkable teachers and mentors, and I'm sure you'll forgive me for sharing a few memories. 

Mr Geoffrey Arnold, our first Principal - yes, the guy they named Arnold house after.  He was quiet, softly spoken, and  he had a quirk – he wore bright red socks every day.   But Mr Arnold knew the name of EVERY student at the school.  He knew our stories, and our challenges.  He’d congratulate us on our successes - often making us wonder how he had even found out.  He showed great pride in us all, and we knew it. 

He was backed up by Mr Norm McVeigh.  If Mr Arnold was softly spoken,  Stormin’ Norman, as we called him, was the opposite.  Booming voice, stern, no-nonsense, face.  But Mr McVeigh was fair.  He understood that there were three sides to every story – yours, theirs, and the truth.  I don’t think anybody took a weekend detention, or some form of punishment, and blamed him – if he caught you, it was because you deserved it.  But he would support you the whole way if you put in the effort. 

My Year Coordinator for the whole of high school was Mr Clive Spencer – a soccer tragic, especially Newcastle United.  He would start addressing our year group, in his Yorkshire accent, bellowing, “Listen up, folks!”  He sadly  passed away 8 years ago, and I didn't fully comprehend how great his impact was until I was collecting messages for his funeral.  Many of us commented how much he guided and inspired us.  But he had the most profound impact on our year’s, let’s call them, “problem kids” – especially a couple who left  the school, perhaps not by their own choice.  They all spoke of his fairness, kindness,  and tireless work to support them through some hard years of their life.  Mr Spencer believed in them, even when they felt that few others shared his optimism, or compassion.   

After my time at Frederick Irwin, I attended the University of Western Australia, completed my Medicine degree, and started working as a Doctor.  I once announced to a friend's parents that I wanted to be a heart surgeon.  I was told, “You come from Mandurah – nobody from Mandurah becomes a heart surgeon.”  At the time, I was about to become only the fourth person from this school to get into Medicine,  though I’m proud to say that many others have followed.  And recently, I spent two years working at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney – one of the largest heart and lung transplant hospitals in the world.  So I didn’t only smash this mould, I got to transplant hearts along the way. 

My journey through school and university, then on through training to be a surgeon was no walk in the park.  Being a bit of a nerd, I was hardly a "popular kid", and certainly wasn't a star on the footy or hockey team.  And those of you in Year 12 about to front your Exams know how fun and relaxing those can be.  Then adult life started - university, buying a house, marriage, parenting, and working long hours at the hospital, often deprived of sleep, and running on the good will of my family.  More study, more exams, and learning how to perform heart operations has been the focus of much of my life since my graduation. 

I'm here today because my friends and I were lucky enough to find a strong community, a village perhaps, within the grounds of this school.  The passion to create something in those early years by so many within this school gave us the chance to succeed.  The word "community" may have been taken out of the school name long ago, but the spirit of the word remains.  And now, you all form the backbone of this community.  Among you all here today, some of you will give an address like this in 20, 30 years time.  Some of you may even teach at this School - I see several teachers who studied here at the same time as me.  Others may teach students who follow you in the workplace - I have now taught and mentored several university students and training doctors who once studied at Frederick Irwin.  

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