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VALE Br. GREENING, BUNDOORA’S FIRST PRINCIPAL

 

Br. Bill Greening, Parade College Bundoora’s Principal in its historic inaugural year of 1968, has died in Sydney five days after his 90th birthday.

Br. Greening died in Lewisham Hospital on Sunday morning (June 18). Though he had been in ill health for some time, Br. Tim Barnes, himself an Old Paradian, was a constant source of care and support.

News of Br. Greening’s passing was conveyed by Gary Henshall (1971), who with fellow members of his final year class had kept in regular contact with a “courteous, fair and consultative man” who oversaw the operations of the “new” Parade.

“Brother Bill worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between those from East Melbourne and Alphington into the new settings. After all, we were in the middle of nowhere,” Gary said.

“He truly was one of the good ones [and] he was in many ways ahead of his time. “He suggested in the 1971 Annual Report that maybe young men were leaving school to enter a probable corrupt society and he was concerned of the consequences.

“With Brother Bill you got a religious man who loved music, who respected his students and treated them as young men. He tried to prepare them for the next step. He listened, he consulted, he cajoled them, he heard and he decided, fairly. If he felt there was bias or overuse of authority by other staff members he was willing to listen to students and parent’s points of view and intervene.”

Gary added that Br. Greening not only enjoyed teaching students in the classroom but also found time to coach on the sports field – “and who can forget that baggy tracksuit he wore as he trained potential hurdlers”.

On what was the 100th anniversary of the educational complex set in motion by the pioneers in 1868, Br. Greening, a Senior English Master for one year at the “Old Bluestone Pile” and later Supervisor of teaching staffs of the Christian Brothers, was appointed to oversee the running of the fledgling Bundoora campus, formally opened by the then Governor of Victoria Sir Rohan Delacombe on Sunday, February 4, 1968.

Eighteen teachers - 13 of them Brothers including Vice Principal Br. Edwards and Senior Master Br. Moloney together with laymen like Neville Colvin, Len Foster, Martin Hickey, Alban Pisani and the Old Paradian Spence Williams - officiated in that year, along with six assistant teachers.

In his annual report for the 1968 edition of The Paradian, Br. Greening reflected on the monumental move to Bundoora.

“A hundred years on, the magnificent project at Bundoora appears to be somewhat spectacular and venturesome; nevertheless it is completely consistent with the spirit of Brother Treacy and his fellow pioneers,” he wrote.

“In so many was the new college is in direct line with the old; the dedicated staff, boys with similar social backgrounds to the boys of yesteryear, highly academic courses of study, sound spiritual formation, emphasis on self-discipline, and so on. Honour rolls and photographic records dating back to 1871 blend beautifully into a building which, by a triumph of architecture, bridges the time barrier between past and present-future. In other words, a conscious effort has been made by the Old Paradian design team and by the principals of the college to uphold the motto: tenete traditiones as shown by the history of the college.”

By way of Matthew Williams, who profiled the lives of a number of Christian Brothers who profoundly impacted on the education system in Australia, Brother Greening’s story is as follows;

William Greening was born on June 13, 1927 the youngest of four sons to Albert John Greening and Iona Gabriel (nee Hall) in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Bill gained an early education at the Sisters of St Joseph at Granville in Sydney and then CBC Burwood where he completed his Intermediate Certificate in 1941. He briefly attended CBC Lewisham before entering the Juniorate at Strathfield in 1942 where he completed his Leaving Certificate.

He received the Habit on February 11, 1944 and commenced his novitiate year. Such was his promise shown that he was relocated to Melbourne to teach at CBC Yarraville (St Augustine’s) while still in his Scholasticate year in 1945. There he taught primary and secondary classes until the end of 1953 by which time he had also completed his B.A. at the University of Melbourne.

A five-year period to 1958 found Br. Greening at Rostrevor College in Adelaide where he served as Boarding House Master and also Senior Humanities Master. His versatility was further demonstrated through his roles as OC of Cadets, sports-master and choirmaster.

Transferred to the Brothers Victorian Juniorate in Bundoora in 1959, Br. Greening taught classics, humanities and music, and from 1963 to 1966 also served as Juniorate Director. As such, he created a less stuffy and rigid atmosphere for his young charges than had been customary.

In 1968, having completed a year as Educational Supervisor for the St Patrick’s (Southern) Province, Br. Greening was appointed Principal of Parade College. As Principal of the new Bundoora campus for what would be a six-year term, he fostered the various abilities of his staff and allowed them to be innovative.

In chronicling Br. Greening’s life for a series of stories involving Brothers who have had influence on the education system in Australia, Matthew Williams explained that the man’s artistic talents were put to good use at Parade.

“Br. Greening himself was outstanding as an English teacher where not only his knowledge but also his acting abilities and feel for the dramatic arts enabled him to bring literature to life for his students,” Matthew noted.

He (also) found time to complete a B. Ed. with first class honours, winning the Harold Cohen Prize in Education”.

In 1974, Br. Greening transferred to the New South Wales St Mary’s Province, assuming the role of Deputy Principal of St Patrick’s Strathfield and the following year Principal until 1980.

During this time, he commenced work on his Masters of Education thesis dealing with the first mission of the Christian Brothers to Sydney from 1843-1847. He was awarded his Masters with honours in 1981 allowing him to commence doctorate studies. He gained his Ph.D for his thesis on the adaptation of the Irish Christian Brothers educational system to Australian conditions in the 19th Century.

During the 1980s, after some study leave at Vaughan College, Marsfield, Br. Greening joined the staff of Mt. St. Mary’s Strathfield Teachers’ College - firstly as a part-time lecturer in sociology, educational psychology and the History and Philosophy of Education, and later as Campus Director.

These were exciting times as the Teachers’ College was expanding considerably and had a reputation for producing fine young exponents of the teaching craft. Ultimately the college developed into a campus of the Australian Catholic University.

In 1992, Br. Greening accepted an invitation to Notre Dame University in Fremantle as rector to the American students, during which time he also briefly acted as registrar.

Back in Sydney in the mid-1990s, Br. Greening worked as Province archivist and also secretary to the Province’s Edmund Rice Beatification Committee.

From 1995 until 2003, Br. Greening resided at Waterford House at Waverley in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, while he assisted the Principal and the College in various capacities - chiefly representing the Principal at meetings of the Old Boys Association but also as a Board member and Archivist. He retired to Edmund House at the Charingfield Hostel in 2004.

“Bill has been active in many educational circles, and served on many committees over the years too many to name here, Matthew noted.

“Many of them reflect his interest in the teaching of English; he was for instance made an honorary life-member of the Victorian Association for the teaching of English. School leadership has been another area of interest for he has served as a member of the Executive of the NSW Association for In- dependent Schools and as a member of the National Standing Committee for School Evaluation, to name just two of several such committees.

“Bill, with his gregarious personality, friendliness and sense of hospitality have enabled him to be at ease in society and professional circles. He has always been someone who enjoys the big occasion. Many of his activities and interest have been curtailed in recent years by poor health but his geniality was still evident.”

Br. Bill Greening will be remembered in a mass celebrated at the College’s Chapel, Bundoora Campus, this Friday, commencing 8.10am.