A thirty year connection held dear

It’s almost 30 years since Tom Vellacott last set foot on BSSC soil. The former exchange student from Zurich, Switzerland completed his VCE in 1988 at what was then Bendigo High School, and has many fond memories of his time at the college.

He revisited the college this week as part of a whirlwind Australian trip in his role as CEO of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Switzerland.

“I remember 1988 being the bi-centenary year, so it was a really exciting time to be in Australia,” Tom said. “It’s such a strange feeling to be back in Bendigo after 30 years, but it’s great to see how the college has progressed and to witness first-hand the amazing range of subjects and opportunities available to students. The new facilities in the Ulumbarra Theatre complex are just wonderful.”

Tom formed a very close bond with his host family, Pauline and Bob Mathrick, and that connection has carried on through the family. His parents also formed a strong friendship with the Mathricks, and when Tom’s niece came to Bendigo to study in 2016 they were instrumental in finding her a host family to stay with.

Tom is still in contact with a handful of his former Bendigo High classmates, testament to the important part Bendigo played in the formative years of his education. He can even name the teachers he had in Year 12:

Mr Grant for Economics, Mrs Griffiths for Politics, Mr Thomas for English, Mr Moore for English Lit and Mr Pearce for Biology.

“It’s funny, I couldn’t remember those things back in Switzerland, but when I went jogging around Bendigo last night, all the names and faces came back to me,” Tom said.

After completing his VCE in Bendigo, Tom completed his secondary school studies in Switzerland before going to university in England. He completed Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Durham University, before studying International Relations at Cambridge. He worked in the banking sector for many years before taking on his current role with the WWF.

After a chat with HR Manager Bev Miller, who was Year 12 Co-ordinator back in 1988, Tom took a tour of the college, visiting some of his old classrooms and taking in the many changes.

“Bendigo will always hold fond memories for me,” he said.