For the first time in almost 150 years, Parade College’s next Principal is a layperson – the Old Paradian Andy Kuppe, a final year student of the class of ’83.
Andy, currently the Acting Principal, is to formally replace Parade’s longest-serving Principal Dr Denis Moore (1967), who for the past quarter of a century oversaw the seismic development of the Bundoora Campus and the emergence of its counterpart at Preston.
News of Andy’s appointment (effective January 2020) was conveyed to all teachers and staff on Thursday. On Friday, at this historic moment in time, the man took a moment to articulate his thoughts.
“I’m stoked. It’s my dream job,” Andy said.
“It’s been really humbling, the amount of emails and text messages of support from people, and it’s why the reach of the place and the standing of the place in the community never ceases to amaze me.
“It’s such an honour to be Principal of Parade, particularly when I think of the great men who were here - Denis Moore chief amongst them - and Brian Bond and John Wright who have been large in my life too.
“To then think back to Ambrose Treacy and the other great men of his ilk, you do feel unworthy in their company. To be able to live up to that standard, which is not a low standard, is incredibly motivating in a sense although if you thought about it too deeply you’d never get out of bed!”
Mindful of his unique place in time given that the 28 Principals before him were all Christian Brothers, Andy acknowledged that his appointment essentially reflected the wider movement in the Church, that laypeople were now being identified for such roles in leadership.
And as he duly observed: “The challenge for places like Parade and Edmund Rice schools generally is that women need to increasingly take on such roles too . . . perhaps me being a layman is the first step in an even wider push that needs to happen”.
Admitting to some form of amusement in being reminded he’ll be the first lay Principal of Parade (as he says, “what have I been doing for the past nine months?”), Andy reminded that having already been in the chair for that period “the sky hasn’t fallen in”.
“I know that people make assumptions about the Catholic identity of the place when there’s a Christian Brother here and they just think that through osmosis the identity is looked after, but I know I’ll have to be more intentional about that than Brother Denis,” Andy said.
“In saying that, all of the parents here are laypeople, all of the teachers are laypeople and all of the staff are laypeople, so it makes sense that the Principal is also a layperson – which doesn’t detract in any way from the manner in which Brother Denis has led this place so ably in his role as a Christian Brother.
“That’s the great gift that the Christian Brothers have offered the schools they started - that they freely, generously and prophetically loved the schools so much that they let them go, which is an amazing act of generosity . . .
“And it’s significant that the Brothers’ first school now has lay leadership because they wouldn’t have imagined that at all almost 150 years ago when they started . . . but here we are.”
In recounting memories of his own years as a student at the College, Andy unhesitatingly declared: “I loved Parade. I loved the six years that I was here”.
“It started up at the old red brick place in Year 7 and 8 when we were on one side of the building and the Brothers were on the other side. My Year 8 teacher was the great Lew Derrico who commenced his teaching there in ’79 and I made some lifelong friends.
“And that’s part of the story isn’t it. For some people it hasn’t been a good experience, but for me and my friends these were great times. Later on, when we were working in the city and we went out on a Thursday for a beer the night would inevitably end with the War Cry and the singing of the school song. There was a real pride in that.”
But the lofty responsibility of office dictates there is little time to reflect on the past. It was here that Andy was asked to identify the major challenges facing Parade College into the great beyond and for him most relate to Catholic identity.
“When I was here as a student there probably wasn’t much difference between the Catholic identity of the school and the Catholic identity of the parish, whereas now I think we would see Catholic identity differently,” Andy said.
“When I was here (as a student) we were probably all Catholics, whereas now we’d be welcoming boys from a range of different faith backgrounds. The participation in the life of the church sacramentally in a parish sense would also be different, with probably 10 per cent of the boys here who’d be regular churchgoers - and I think the boys would see God in a much bigger and more inclusive way than I would have understood when I was at school.
“So a key challenge would be to keep making the school flexible and responsive to the needs of the boys.”
On a personal level, Andy believes he can bring to the Principalship a genuine love for Parade.
“I think I know the place pretty well and on the flipside I know where the bodies are buried!,” Andy said.
“I know the strengths and I also know the possibilities, Denis having been very generous in the past year or so in including me in some of the strategic plans for the College.”
Given the relationships with institutions such as Latrobe University and the University of Melbourne through to Melbourne City and Northpark Hospital, Andy knows that Parade’s boundaries have already become more porous than ever before.
As he said: “In short we’ve become a lot more engaged with the community – social justice as an example - and I think that will become even more sewn into the College’s future”.
In closing, what does Andy see in the future of the Old Paradians’ Association and its place within the community? Again, he can only see opportunity, for as he said: “In a way we’re only beginning to tap in to the goodwill that is there amongst the former students and their willingness to connect”.