Where are they now - Mick Saunders (SPC 1977-81)
author: Lorrie Liston
The College is reconnecting with Michael (Mick) Saunders (SPC 1977-1981), pictured with some of his 1200 cricket books, who has enjoyed a rich and rewarding career in education and still catches up with his SPC mates regularly.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
Well I’ve never really left school. I studied at Aquinas College, Ballarat with fellow SPC Class of 1981 lads Chris Brouwers (SPC 1976-81) and our School Captain Damien 'Jack’ Gleeson (SPC 1978-81). While there, Chris and I formed the Ballarat Bertie Bush Band along with five other students and performed for a number of years together with the occasional reunion performance since. Whilst at Aquinas I met my now wife of 31 years, Jo-Ann. My first teaching appointment was at St Alipius Ballarat East where I taught for five years, during this time the first two of our children were born; Adriana and Joshua. On a whim, at the age of 25, I applied for the Principal’s position at St Michael’s Wycheproof. Br Paul Nangle, my first principal at St Patrick’s when I arrived in Form 2 in 1977, was then working at the Catholic Education Office and provided invaluable support and advice during the principal application process. Nevertheless, I was still somewhat shocked to be appointed principal. A wonderful five years followed during which time our next two children Hugh and Connor were born and I played both cricket and football for Wycheproof. I then moved onto St Patrick’s, Camperdown where I became their longest serving principal - 13 years. During this time, I also did a teaching transfer to Erie Pennsylvania USA for a semester, spent three months as an Educational Consultant for the Catholic Education Office and served on many Ballarat Diocesan committees. Whilst continuing to live in Camperdown I became Principal of St Colman’s Mortlake leading that community for a period of six years. During my tenure at the three schools I led, each achieved significant enrolment growth which was very satisfying. However, 24 years as a Principal seemed sufficient to me so I returned to St Patrick’s Camperdown, free of the burdens of administration, to be a teacher again enjoying roles in the arts, reading recovery and intervention and Support.
My time at St Patrick’s, Ballarat proved invaluable as I moved around the Diocese meeting many people with strong links to SPC whether that was the Verbeek’s, Scarce’s and Miller’s of Wycheproof to the Conheady’s, Lee’s, Burke’s, Place’s of the Western District. In fact of the four male teachers at St Patrick’s, Camperdown three are St Patrick’s Ballarat Old Boys; Paul Kingston (SPC 1973-78), Ryan Casey (SPC 1999-2004) and myself.
Camperdown has been a wonderful town to raise a family in with many opportunities to be involved in the community and meet new people. I am a life member of the Camperdown Cricket Club and continue to play the occasional game for them. Collecting cricket books is an extension of this passion. Our family has been very involved with the Camperdown Theatre Company with the chance to play Gomez in the Addams Family the Musical, a personal highlight.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
My favourite memories from my time at St Patrick’s centre around the friendships formed. Damien Godfrey (SPC 1976-81), Mark Jose (SPC 1976-81) and I rode around Lake Wendouree each day, enjoying many a warm laugh despite the cold wintery rides. By Year 12 the students were more of a cohesive group and I recall many of us sitting around the square of seats along the O’Malley Wing hitting and kicking a Big M container to each other- a forerunner of hacky sacks perhaps. The regular reunions of the Class of 81 instigated by Stewart ‘Stewie’ Hynes (SPC 1976-81) have been greatly looked forward to. I am in awe of Stewie’s drive to bring us together and of Daryl Mapleson’s (SPC 1981) endeavour to fly over from Kalgoorlie each time.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
I found Bob Aron to be an excellent and thought-provoking teacher and enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with him as a Principal colleague in later years.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values, family and professional life?
St Patrick’s College affirmed the faith that was strongly nurtured in my family home which in turn became the foundation of my work and our own family life. My wife Jo is a senior teacher at Mercy Regional College and was their Director of Religious Education for many years and this has further formed our lives. The spirit of reaching out to others saw us act as a host family to Cedric Cox last year. Cedric came from the Kimberleys to play football for Camperdown and in an amazing sequence of events he went from being a local football star to being drafted at pick 24 last year to the Brisbane Lions. I’m not sure who was more excited Jo and I or Cedric when Stevie Johnson read out his name on Draft Night!
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
There is so many opportunities available today so I encourage those presently at St Patrick’s to adopt the words of Mark Twain; “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”