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Letter from the Chairman – 30 November 2022

30 November 2022

Dear Members of the Hilton Family,

It is hard to believe that 2022 is almost behind us and that everyone is once again preparing for the December holidays in South Africa.

Almost six months ago, I assumed the chairmanship of the Hilton College board of governors and since then it has been an enormous privilege to once again serve this incredible school and to watch it continue growing from strength to strength.

The past year has been an auspicious milestone in Hilton’s long and distinguished history with the 150th celebrations continuing throughout the year. Undoubtedly, the climax of the year was the 150th anniversary dinners in April, when members of the Hilton family congregated from all over the world on campus for what was truly a memorable occasion. Even more spectacular than the dinner itself was the fact that no fewer than 35 year group reunions took place in and around Hilton over this period, which is unprecedented. As I remarked at Speech Day, it is the camaraderie and lifelong friendships which boys at Hilton College forge over their five years together, which makes this organisation and the brotherhood among old boys so special and unique.

The 150th celebrations aside, 2022 has been an exceptional year as far as our results are concerned.

The school remains full with an extremely healthy waiting list for the next few years.

For those of you who follow school rankings, you may have read with interest recently that Hilton College was ranked the top boy sports school in South Africa for 2022. This is according to SA School Sports magazine, which based its ranking on schools’ combined rankings across six sports codes, namely rugby, cricket, hockey, water polo, basketball and football. To this end, this exercise assessed which were the top “all-rounders” of 2022 and which schools have performed consistently across all these sporting codes.

From an individual sports perspective, Hilton College had the distinction of having three boys selected for the SA Schools rugby side – the first time in its 150 years – with Thomas Dyer having the distinction of captaining the side against the English school’s rugby team. In addition, three boys were awarded their SA School’s colours for hockey with Matthew Rout being selected as vice-captain of the SA Schools hockey team. All round an excellent achievement!

On the academic front, Ben Kok, a grade 11 pupil, was selected as one of only two South Africans to join a NASA programme in Houston in the USA, while Khanya Mhlongo, next year’s deputy head of school, was selected and attended an international debating symposium at Oxford University.

Culturally, the school continues to excel in this sphere having been involved in, among others, the production of Joseph with St Anne’s, a spirited celebration of music between Hilton College and Michaelhouse, and the resumption of the outdoor leadership experiences following the Covid years. Additionally, and thanks to the significant donation made by a longstanding benefactor of the college and other generous donations, a new music centre was completed this month. It truly is a world-class facility and definitely worth a visit when next you are up at the college.

As you will appreciate, none of the above would be possible without the passion, energy and dedication of the teachers and support staff at Hilton College who are omnipresent, always go the extra mile and who are so ably and superbly led by George Harris, the headmaster. Thanks and appreciation must also go to Thomas Roy, this year’s head of school, and the entire matric leadership group for setting such a fine example, whether on the sports field, in the classroom or elsewhere, and for always upholding the values and ethos of Hilton College.

As a chairman of the Hilton College board remarked in the early 1920s: “A school is more than bricks and acres and a water supply. It depends for its life as a community of boys and men and women on the headmaster who controls and inspires it. Its character and personality as a living organism stems from these human relationships.”

In turning to the future and ensuring that Hilton College maintains the positive momentum which it has created and achieved over the past few years, I am often reminded of the words which Henry Vaughan Ellis, Hilton’s second headmaster, uttered at his final annual dinner at Hilton College in 1904: “If it is the desire of Hilton to remain Hilton, it really comes to this: are we, Hilton College, to become a dream of the past or are we to fight it out and become one of the mainsprings of the future? We do that by acquiring an active, strong, lively, persistent interest in the place by taking some responsibility and carrying it through, changing what must be changed and keeping what is worth keeping and so gradually renewing the whole life.”

Some years later, his successor, William Falcon, in amplifying the words of Ellis, remarked that “… surely the ideal to which all Hiltonians look forward is a school firmly established and living not on fees alone, but endowed by the generosity of its sons with funds to maintain scholarships both at the school and from the school and in a position to weather any storm”.

As such, a key focus area for Hilton next year and beyond will be to grow its endowment to ensure that future generations of boys can likewise benefit from the Hilton College education and experience which 150 years of old boys have enjoyed to date.

In closing, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your ongoing interest in Hilton College and your lively support. I wish all of you happy holidays and safe journeys onwards, until we meet again in 2023.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Johnston