05 November, 2021 Academic

Vale Dr Janette Gordon-Clark

(26 April 1936 – 27 October 2021)

‘… There is no one in the St Michael’s story who has given so unstintingly of their life over such a lengthy period…’

The St Michael’s Grammar School community is deeply saddened by the loss of Old Michaelian, Dr Janette (Jan) Gordon-Clark, one of the heroes of St Michael’s Grammar School. Jan embodied a zest for life and learning that was an inspiration to many generations of staff, students, parents and Old Michaelians.

Jan began her astonishing 81-year connection with the School when she joined St Michael’s as a student in 1940 at the age of three. In her final year, 1952, Jan was a School Prefect, Editor of The Michaelian, Captain of her House Debating Team, and Dux of the School. She then went on to study at the University of Melbourne.

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    Jan with the 1952 Prefects (back row on left)
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    Dux of the School, 1952

In 1973, Jan was a foundation member of the School Council (now the Board of Directors) and served on the School’s governing body for an unbroken 40 years. During that time, she guided St Michael’s through a remarkable transformation from a small single-sex girls’ school to a much larger co-educational school.

Among Jan’s notable contributions to the School’s governance was her work as Chair of the Chapel Sub-Committee, overseeing the conversion of Bishop’s Hall into the current School Chapel, the Chapel of St Michael and All Angels. Jan continued to serve as a member of the Building and Planning Committee, later known as the Facilities, Infrastructure and Technology (FIAT) Sub Committee of the Board of Directors, up until May 2021. Through her role on these committees, she was instrumental in bringing to fruition the construction of the Allan Pizzey Building, and the Gipson Commons, which she was proud to officially open in 2016. More recently, she brought her expertise, enthusiasm and experience as a thespian of note, to the refurbishment plans for St George’s Church.

Jan was also a member of the Old Michaelians Association Committee for 23 years and served as President from 1969 to 1981. In the past year, Jan has continued her work for the School’s Old Michaelian community, spearheading an initiative to record the war service of Old Michaelians for a new honour board which will be a feature of the St George’s foyer. Some of our current Year 11 students will recall Jan ‘zooming’ into a Humanities lesson in May 2020 to share her experiences as a child living through World War 2. Her energetic recounting of her experiences engaged and intrigued our students who had many questions for her.

She was a very worthy recipient of the St Michael and All Angels Medal in 2014. The medal is bestowed on members of the St Michael’s community who have left a legacy of their connection with the School. The citation accompanying the medal presented to Jan at Speech Night reads

There is no one in the St Michael’s story who has given so unstintingly of their life over such a lengthy period to ensure that we continue to prosper as a learning community. We who enjoy St Michael’s today owe much to Jan’s generosity, energy, foresight and commitment.The citation accompanying the medal presented to Jan at Speech Night

While she gave so much to St Michael’s, raising her family was the main the focus of Jan’s life. Her long and happy marriage to Dr Henry Gordon-Clark (deceased 2014) produced four children, Helen (OM 1979), Matthew (OM 1984), Hugh (OM 1985) and Sophie (OM 1987), each of whom, in the words of Hugh, did their best to make their parents’ lives difficult. Jan and Henry, however, were a constant and loving presence who supported their children in all their different interests.

Having raised her family Jan returned to study, first completing a Master of Arts at Monash University and then a Doctorate, the subject of which was early Melbourne Theatre. As the third generation of a ‘theatrical’ family, theatre was one of Jan’s passions, both as a performer and as an avid fan, and she had a particular fondness for the works of Shakespeare.

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Jan was farewelled at a service at St. Peter’s Eastern Hill, where she had been a member of the parish for more than 50 years. Bishop David Farrer, a long-time friend of Jan’s, in delivering the Homily, quoted Robert Louis Stevenson ‘… A person is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children; who has filled their niche and accomplished their task; who leaves the world better than they found it…’

There is no doubt that Jan left the world, and this School, a better place.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jan’s family at this very sad time.