One of the most Illustrious and successful Old Boys flies
into College by Helicopter on the 9th March 2017
It was a lovely sunny morning at Potchefstroom High School for Boys. All teachers and pupils were hard at work in their classrooms. However in front of the Ackermann on the edge of the Thor Gevers A Rugby field the scene was very different. Earlier two men had arrived in a very elegant white vehicle, they were the body guards.
Those comprising the welcoming group
Mr. Johann van Vuuren the Headmaster
Mr. John Swanepoel Deputy Principal
Mr. Alex Paiva Sports Director
Ms. Esme Combrink School Bursar.
Mrs. Rina Ferreira Curator of the Museum Library and Afrikaans Teacher.
Mr. Geoff Peck Old Boy and host for the introductory gathering in the Ackerman
Mrs. Tracy Gaisford Secretary for the Old Boys Society.
Wally Hopton Old Boy and President of the Old Boys Society.
At about 11 am precisely, as predicted, the atmosphere was electric, a helicopter was circling the school grounds! Until it appeared low over the Natie Kirsh Sports Complex and landed on the A field. I moved onto the field to welcome Natie and his wife Frances, George Lys, Natie’s SA CEO and his wife Roxana until I was gently but firmly restrained by one of the guards!
After that things became a bit chaotic with smiles, kisses and handshakes. I also saw two College Boys in their Blazers. The excitement for us was intense as it is not often we greet people coming off a helicopter on the A Field or welcoming one of Potch Boys High School internationally successful Alumni Nathan Natie Kirsh flying in for a visit to his Old School, Staff and pupils, to see the developments that have taken place at the School, much of which he has so generously funded.
Tour of The School – Facilities to be visited:
After tea in the Ackermann which these days never fails to impress as bright sparkling with its large glass doors open onto the A Rugby Field, lush and green. The newly treated Honors Boards looking very impressive attracting Old Boys including Natie pointing out something to Frances his wife soon after going into the Ackermann.
The New Bar Stools, TV’s and glass shelves and glasses persuading you to feel thirsty. A well restored wooden and glass show case is also a big attraction as it features memorabilia well displayed, of Oom Jerry Smith.
Walls all tastefully hung with appropriate paintings and photographs of sportsman.
The kitchen area is fully tiled and attractive. With convenient toilets for ladies. The men go immediately next door into the new Toilet and shower facilities and change room for the Squash Courts, which today are a source of revenue as is the Ackermann to those who wish to make use of these impressive facilities. A visit to the Alex Paiva Health and Fitness Centre was brief but the new Natie Kirsh Sports Complex had certainly impressed Natie and wife Frances, George and wife Roxana
After the introductory and tea in the Ackermann we all strolled over to the Hall
Tour of the School:
Facilities to be visited
- Wally Hopton Hall
- Museum and Media Centre
- Arts and Music Centre
- Classroom No 10
- Staffroom and Garden
- M.C. Cartwright Lecture Theatre
- Grounds and Surrounds
There we were beautifully entertained by the Choir.
They sang two items one was to my Father and one to my Mother in the red dress. We felt they were directed at Natie as my Father and Frances as my mother in the red dress. We were all very impressed. The choir then left and a small group wearing poncho’s entertained us on their marimbas again very good. We then moved to the Museum and Media Centre.
Rina Ferreira hosted this visit which was very interesting. As we were running out of time visits to the Staff room and garden were brief as was Classroom No 10 renovated as a model classroom for the Adopt a Classroom project. The M. C. Cartwright Lecture Theater was also brief.
The Music Centre
Mrs.Jooste The Music Teacher meets Natie and Francis
The visit to the Music Centre was important as it is our aim to eventually establish a state of the art, Arts Centre on the grounds of the school not only for use by the school itself but also the broader community. We will however be upgrading the present facility as part of the Adopt a Classroom Project.
Verity Phiri with Natie,Francis and Johann
An emotional highlight during their visit was the Boys ambushing Natie and presenting him with a cricket cap behind the hall and then taking him in to do the School War cry. Which Natie and the Boys did with gusto. Amazing after leaving College in 1949 Natie was chanting with the boys, amazing memory!
Accompanying us on the tour was Verity Phiri the Schools Marketing lady who is doing excellent work, visiting primary schools to talk to selected boys about College I believe Alex Paiva accompanies her on these marketing trips. She supplies all the information for School events and will be copying us for our New Website due to be launched as soon as possible within a week or so. Certainly by mid-April. We then strolled back to the Ackermann for lunch.
Lunch in the Ackermann
Welcome – The Headmaster Mr. Johann van Vuuren
Overview of the School – Deputy Principal Mr. John Swanepoel
Overview of Sport – Sports Director Mr. Alex Paiva
Mr. Natie Kirsh’s contribution to the School Mr. Geoff Peck Old Boy
Response by Mr. Natie Kirsh
The Following display was made for Natie Kirsh, a beautiful book of memorabelia and painting.
The presentations were valuable giving our guests a meaningful oversight of the School. Geoff described Natie’s role in the New Natie Kirsh Sports Complex. His great generosity and the motivation Natie had given to the School and Old Boys. One of the staff said “he has given us all hope”!
Natie’s reply was brief but very encouraging!
Of significance and importance were the discussions Natie and George had with Johann and John at lunch.
Natie and George both felt very impressed by the School Staff and Pupils and positively expressed their admiration of the way the School was managing the pupils with todays changed Demographics. Unique they considered it to be.
John explained to us that the other local schools in Potchefstroom were experiencing many difficulties with the new demographics which they had not really come to terms with. With a heritage of patronage by the Education department they had also not really grasped the need to support maintenance at their Schools. Showing a great deal of emotion John described our success at rugby and was not happy that when we had beaten Gymnasium at rugby they have never agreed to play us again.
After Lunch Natie had said to me we must discuss business. I said Natie our objective for the day was to provide you with an encouraging and happy visit to College and Potchefstroom. He said he just wanted a list of needs from me. When he was leaving to go on a visit to places of “memory” in Potch where he and Frances had grown up. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “we are in this together”
All in all a day of great pride for Natie and Frances, George and Roxana the School and Old Boys.
For the rest of the afternoon Natie and his party visited the town driving under the Oak Trees, to Old Memory places in Potchefstroom to complete a memorable day for them and for College.
“Justorum Semita Lux Splendens” (The Path of the Just is a Shining Light)
A Brief Introduction “To” Natie and Frances’s Family.
The following information was obtained from a speech Natie made when he and Frances were honored by receiving a KOVED from the IUA-UCF in Johannesburg. This organization which for decades has been the rock of the Jewish community, is the perfect example of how to set lofty goals and whose committee members and management are passionate about achieving them.
“Speaking about myself – Natie said- I have many success stories – but tonight I want to focus on just one. It is my most important achievement, which still requires my constant attention. Not necessarily because it needs it, but I have learnt over years that when you have something which is good, you need to keep a watchful eye on it. It is not an achievement measured in monitory terms, nor is it a charitable initiative, my greatest accomplishment is that I have remained married to the same woman for 60 years.
From the very early days of our marriage. I am sure a psychologist would have assessed me as a dominant male chauvinist thus having all the characteristics needed, and well qualified to manage a happy marriage.
- I just did what Frances told me to do.
- I never answered back – except to say yes darling – you are right
- And I always let Frances have the last word.
If only Natie had published his formula sooner!
I can categorically say that our children have inherited their parent’s passion for what they set out to do.
Wendy, our oldest, is passionate about art and its place in society. Not only is she a talented sculptress but she is an organizer of note and a major player in the Art and Philanthropy world. For this, she has received broad recognition. In the UK “The Freedom of the City” from the Lord Mayor of London. “Honorary Fellowship” from the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Art Museum, not to mention being on the Boards of the Tate International Council in the UK and the Guggenheim in New York.
Our second daughter. Linda – is equally passionate about Philanthropy and uplifting communities as well as providing the support Israel needs from the Diaspora. For Linda, as an emigrant from South Africa, to be elected Chairperson of New York UJA Federation, the largest Jewish Charity in the US is indeed great recognition. This could not have happened were she not passionate about achieving her goals.
Finally our Son – Philip – despite living in New York, his passion and goals are to uplift young people in Africa. He keeps this under the radar but his success in this area is considerable and is achieved through his drive and projects to improve the lives of underprivileged children.
Natie’s Ingredients for Success.
“So in a nutshell’ Passion, Risk, Integrity and Philanthropy are all essential elements that I believe go into the complex mix that leads us to assess whether we have made a success of our life”
The day had been exceptional for all of us and the real passion by the school to make everything perfect I am sure has left them feeling very proud of their achievements, very accurately noted by Natie and his party. After listening to Natie all Old Boys should also be very proud of their efforts to Support College! As we are of Natie.
“Justorum Semita Lux Splendens” (The Path of the Just is a Shining Light)
The following are some of the many encouraging thoughts of what we had felt or anticipated during or before Natie’s visit to the School.
Natie and Frances
It is very rare that any school is able to invite an Old Boy to their school who worked his way up from a small Malting Works in Potchefstroom to the status of being one of the 500 richest people in America.
The Promise was intended to be a “Welcoming” to Natie time however did not permit.
Going for the first time to College the High School for Boys in Potchefstroom in the winter of 1940, the Oak trees were brown and bare, as they would be in winter for the rest of my life and for a young Natie Kirsh who was born and brought up in Potchefstroom. In Early Spring of that year I woke up in Milton to find Potchefstroom had overnight turned from brown to a beautiful fresh green. I was probably only 11 years old at the time and the transformation and the wonder I had experienced has stayed indelibly with me until today and I am sure beyond!
The “wonder” I had felt would not have been as dramatic for Natie but I am sure as deeply felt as for me. So you can imagine two veterans discussing important matters that would greatly transform College from brown to a fresh green. When the subject of the Oak trees arose. Both passionate about the Oaks, but one unhappy as he had been told all the oaks had been removed. The other doing his best to promote “our” school was suddenly off track and having a gentlemanly argument about the Oaks. We both were able fairly quickly to calm down, however I ended the discussion by making a promise “that one day I would be with him under the Oak trees. At that time, like the Natie Kirsh Sports Complex at the school, the Promise was a motivating force for me.
So today the 9th of March 2017 we are gathering in the New bright and shiny Natie Kirsh Sports Complex with the Oaks all around us and a Promise fulfilled.
I must mention George Lys Natie’s CEO IN South Africa who has taken a great interest in College and our efforts to transform the School from brown to a bright shiny green.
Today is also very special as we have the honor to welcome Frances Natie’s wife and Roxana George’s wife and hope their day will be happy and interesting and full of memories for Frances and Natie.
For the School and the Old Boys, And fully believing all working together that College will one day turn from brown to green to the benefit of Education at College and South Africa. College has the ability to produce great leaders as we have one of them with us today. We are very privileged and honoured by Natie’s presence.
For those involved in Natie and Frances’s visit to the School experienced some wonderful and uplifting thoughts by Natie after his meeting with the Staff and pupils. Perhaps the most important when he said that in his many and varied experiences at schools that this was the first time, he could feel and see the success the Staff had achieved in producing College Boys no different from those we all know “as special” no matter the colour of their skin. Natie also said that all youth are the future of South Africa and the Staff are to be admired for their achievements in managing the dramatic change of Demographics of the boys attending College, which he had not seen before, to the extent seen at College.
From the Old boys point of view we could only admire the very great efforts Staff and Teachers had made to make Natie and Frances‘s visit an interesting and particularly a happy one. Something they achieved with great credit and I am sure all their passion and hard work was being rewarded.
During our review of the school and grounds I was handed three envelopes with explanatory motivations. All three had merit with two boy’s one black and one white making us realize that despite difficulties they are able to achieve excellent academic results.
The third proposal was prepared by Karin Petersen Teacher on behalf of the Potchefstroom Boys High Art Foundation.
The proposal: to establish a state of the art, Arts Centre on the grounds of the School. Not only for the use by the school itself, but the broader community.
Justorum Semita Lux Splendens
(The Path of the Just is a Shining Light)