Sunday, March 12, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Dilworth's legacy a century of spectacular success

Happy 100th birthday, Dilworth School! This magnificent Auckland school, the largest all-boarding school in Australasia, turns 100 this year and the school has been celebrating all weekend.

Dilworth has come a long way since it opened on March 12, 1906, comprising a collection of wooden farm buildings, one teacher and eight pupils. These days, the school has a roll of about 600 and a waiting list of thousands.

And no wonder. James Dilworth left a remarkable legacy. He was a believer in education being the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. His vision - to establish an institution affording boys such maintenance, education and training as will enable them to become good and useful members of society - has been spectacularly realised.

Thanks to the Dilworth Trust Board's careful management of the money and prime real estate James Dilworth left behind, thousands of young men have received an education on a par with the best private schools around. They have been clothed, fed, educated, given musical or sporting lessons where they've shown aptitude and have indeed graduated as good and useful members of society.

Sir David Beattie, New Zealand's governor-general for five years and a supreme court justice, Professor Guy Dodson and twin brother Professor Emeritus Maurice Dodson, Dr Michael Bassett, Garth and Peter Tapper - these are just some of Dilworth's alumni.

I had the privilege of visiting Tyrone House for their annual dinner last year and if Tyrone is representative of the school, it's an extraordinary place.

The young men were courteous, confident, articulate and well-groomed - everything a parent could wish for. The future of these young men is assured, as is the future of the school.

It's just a shame that there isn't an equivalent facility for girls. In James Dilworth's day, there was no need for indigent females to be educated, so no provision was made for girls. Setting up a school like Dilworth from scratch today would be prohibitively expensive, unless you're Bill Gates.

So enjoy your celebrations Dilworth. You're one of a kind.

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