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On the last day of Term 2, the School community came together to celebrate a very special birthday: Wenona turned 133!
To mark the occasion, staff, alumnae and special guests joined more than 1,100 students in the Big Gym for Foundation Day.
Dr Scott, Chair of the Board, Mr Gary Turner, and Vice President of the Wenona Alumnae Association, Ms Fiona Nix (Corbett, 1981) all addressed the audience, before leading Historian, Dr Sarah Irving-Stonebraker (1998) gave a powerful speech about the power of a Wenona education.
Graduating as Dux of Wenona in 1998 with a perfect University Admissions Index (UAI) of 100.00 in the HSC, Dr Irving-Stonebraker has enjoyed a stellar academic career. She was awarded First Class Honours and the University Medal in History from Sydney University. She won a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a PhD at King’s College, Cambridge. She was then appointed as a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, before being offered an Assistant Professorship at Florida State University. She has since returned to Australia where she is currently Senior Lecturer in Modern European History. Her first book entitled Natural Science and the Origins of the British Empire was awarded The Royal Society of Literature and Jerwood Foundation Award for Non-fiction.
Dr Irving-Stonebraker joined Wenona as a Year 5 student in 1991. She recalled wearing the same uniform as her mother, Mrs Susan Irving (Chapman, 1968) wore when she was at Wenona, including a grey bowler hat and gloves. She also recalled the thrill of buying Eucalyptus Drops, “because they were the closest we came to junk food”, playing violin and flute, school soirées and the camaraderie of performing with her close school friends.
She said, “Wenona gave me all kinds of opportunities to extend myself and develop character. My real loves were Music and Debating. Debating taught me the skills of standing up in front of an audience and speaking articulately, thinking clearly, and making an argument. I’ve drawn upon not only the skills, but also the confidence, debating gave me ever since.”
Above all, Dr Irving-Stonebraker said that Wenona had given her the freedom to think and had encouraged her “to ask the really big questions about life.” She challenged the students to do the same. “You see, only the best kind of education prepares you to robustly critique the very foundations of your beliefs, and your values… to go to the very heart of everything.”
As tradition dictates, the youngest student in the School, Leela (Kindergarten) helped Dr Scott and Dr Irving-Stonebraker to cut the cake.
This was followed by a rousing rendition of the School song.
Sarah (Year 12) was the inaugural recipient of the Wenona Alumnae Association's Spirit Award for all her hard work in coordinating Jeans for Genes Day during her time at the School. Bravo Sarah!
While the students dispersed to eat cupcakes, alumnae and guests headed to the Independent Theatre to enjoy a delicious morning tea with Dr Scott. And alumnae came together for a very special group photo that linked generations of Wenonians together.
Later that day, the students came together for the fiercely contested Inter-House Choral Festival, which was won by Palmer House. Happy birthday Wenona!