Objects of Substance - Aere_perennius

Cementing the connection: the aere perennius wall

Students and visitors to Girls Grammar may notice an array of plaques set on a wall on the lowest level of the CLC. While it may be easy, on a busy school day, to walk past this display to enjoy the sunshine, the trees, and the green grass of the pool lawn, a closer look will reveal a collection of panels that encapsulate intimate links between the School and those who were its students and parents. This project was proposed by Philanthropic Programs Manager, Mrs Wendy Carter (1969) and l aunched in 2007 to acknowledge Grammar families’ generational connections with the School. Wendy felt that a “concourse of plaques, located together, was more impactful and significant (particularly on the expansive walls of the CLC) than the occasional random plaque over a door”. [Carter, W. Email, 18/11/23] Wendy was encouraged by the Principal, Dr Amanda Bell, who “ was always very supportive of any initiatives to engage the community”. [Carter, W. Email, 21/11/23] Such projects are instrumental in realising the vision of the future Girls Grammar. The program also aimed to encourage and acknowledge, in a lasting and elegant way, the contributions by alumni to the Grammar building masterplan. However, the impression gained by onlookers is not so much about monetary donations, but more about the relationship students and their families establish and maintain with their School.

And just what does the Latin title of this project mean? Roman poet, Horace, was so confident of the value of his work that, in his closing poem, he asserted: exegi monumentum aere perennius . Translated, this declaration means “I have raised a monument more permanent than bronze”. I find such a claim for the lasting value of a poet’s work supremely confident but, as an English teacher, I do believe that words encapsulate emotions, establish a connection, and enhance our heritage. The Aere Perennius concept stemmed from this idea of legacy. Alumni would be invited to participate in a philanthropic program and their donations permanently recognised with an individual plaque. On these plates, the donors would choose an inspirational quotation to be included, along with the names of the students and the years they attended. The information released to promote the program stated that the “plaques will become an enduring record of the long history and lasting bonds for alumni and their families with the School, as well as an inspirational domain for current and future girls for generations to come”. [ Grammar Gazette , Spring 2007, p. 14]

There were early keen supporters who, once the concept was broached, entered with enthusiasm. Wendy Crater remembers that past student and past trustee, Cherrell Hirst [1963], and the Douglas family were among the first participants. They were followed by many others, as well as the Old Girls Association and the Parents and Friends.

2010 OGA Committee member, Ann Caston (1958) with the then OGA President, Christine Purvis (1965).

And there is one plaque that acknowledges the connection of four generations with seven names. The Douglas family have had a close association with the School since its inception. Sally Mewing [Douglas 2002] and Madeline Douglas [2005] were able to offer personal reflections. “When asked about the motivations to be a founding family of the initiative, the Douglas family said: “We are immensely proud of our Queensland family heritage and association with BGGS. The CLC initiative was an opportunity for us to acknowledge the important contributions of our forebears to BGGS and the evolution of women’s education in this State. The Hon John Douglas, the great great grandfather of Sally, Madeline, Heather, and Julia, and a former premier of Queensland, was on the Board of Brisbane Grammar School when BGGS was established and subsequently became one of the School’s first trustees. The education of women was also an important value on the girls' mother's side of the family – Mary Ann Waugh was awarded one of the first scholarships to BGGS in 1877. The verse from Luke 12:48 reflects our family’s generational belief in the immense privilege of education, and the consequent responsibility to contribute to society and better the lives of those around us.” [Douglas, Madeline and Sally email correspondence 22/11/2023]

The Douglas’s plaque that celebrates a connection as old as the School itself.

This opportunity not only to contribute to the future facilities for students, but also to celebrate family connection to the School was an opportunity my sister and I accepted readily. My family has had an unbroken connection with the School since I arrived in 1964 as a student entering Form 3A [Year 9]. When I reached Sixth Form [Year 12], my sister, Pauline, joined me, and both of our daughters later attended: Georga Cooke [1998] and Kirby Short [2003]. I can only hope my granddaughter, Esther, will be able to attend to make it three unbroken generations. From Paris Hilton, Dr Suess, and Ron Weasley of Harry Potter fame to Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, and Cicero, the eclectic collection of quotations reveals the diversity and that independent thinking for which Grammar girls are noted. The names on the plaques also reveal that generations of

Grammar girls and their families continue to connect with the School. They continue to contribute, by coaching, mentoring, teaching, donating, even after those school years and school fees have finished. In my family, known for its independent women, deciding on our quotation was not taken lightly, nor was it a simple process. Our daughters deferred to their mothers, for once, and Pauline and I sought out and discussed a range of options. Ultimately, it came down to what the plaque could encapsulate. We believed it should define our close and long connection to the School, as well as those principles valued by our family. We then realised that the Girls Grammar motto, Nil sine labore , was simply the obvious and perfect choice.

2010 The Harvey girls and their daughters at the Aere Perennius launch: L to R Georgs Cooke, Kirby Short, Kristine Cooke, and Pauline Harvey-Short

On the 20 April 2010, in the 135 th year of the School, the Principal, Amanda Bell, unveiled the Aere Perennius plaques in an event organised by Wendy Carter. The original 32 plaques [30cm by 20cm], were manufactured by Worssell &Co., a third-generation Australian, family-owned company [established in 1943] that specialises in memorial plates. This unveiling was a meeting of generations of Grammar women and their families. The occasion, one of laughter, recognition, and lively conversation, reinforced their intrinsic links to the School and t hose attending thought the wall looked refined and substantial. I think that Wendy Carter was right when she hoped that when you see “plaque upon plaque, full of inspirational words, … you start to get a real feeling for the history of the School, the girls, and their families and how much the School meant to them”. [Carter, W. Email, 18/11/23]

The second celebration of Aere Perennius was held 2018 under the guidance of Georgina Anthonisz [Director of Development & Alumnae Relations ]. The then Chair, Elizabeth Jameson [1982] spoke at this event, emphasising the significance of this program. She said, “Every Grammar girl is an irreplaceable part of the history of the School.” She also noted how the “wall offers words of wisdom, inspiration, and encouragement from one generation to the next”. Elizabeth Jameson also specifically addressed the Year 12 students present: “it’s a pleasure to see some of our newest Grammar Women here tonight. You are just weeks away from stepping out into world to embrace the next exciting stage of your lives but know that you do so as part of a supportive international community of Grammar Women.”

2018 then Chair of Trustees, Elizabeth Jameson.

The Aere Perennius wall is a lasting testament to connection. Those who were involved did not, however, see this project as an opportunity for public recognition. For my family, and for the others to whom I spoke on that morning in April 2010, it was an acknowledgement of a special time in their lives, a link that alumnae can never sever, a desire to “pay it forward ” for future generations of Grammar girls. Perhaps, as you walk past next time, stop for a moment, and reflect, not only on the sentiments enshrined in the 84 quotations that have been chosen, but also on what these plaques represent: memories, connection, and legacy.

Kristine Cooke [Harvey 1967] English teacher

Aere Perennius.

Reference :

Carter, W. Email correspondence, 18/11/2023 and 21/11/2023

Douglas, M. and Mewing S. Email correspondence 22/11/2023

Swindells, A. Email correspondence, 15/11/2023

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