Alumni Update

Congratulations to JCS graduate Elizabeth Gadsby who is featured in this month's Australian Women's Weekly in an article celebrating people in the Arts.  Elizabeth is the resident designer at the Sydney Theatre Company.  And of course, her Mum is Mrs Gadsby, one of our art teachers!

Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni catch-up: Sally Youdale

Throughout my years at John Colet, from Lower First in 2000 to Head Girl in 2006, I gained many lasting friendships, fond memories and valuable lessons. One specific example which springs to mind would be Philosophy lessons, often taught by Mr Mane, the Headmaster at the time.

Mr Mane was an excellent teacher, with many stories to tell and jokes to be had, he was easily distractible, and so a lot of fun could be had in Philosophy. His lessons, for me, however, did spark an early interest in philosophical inquiry into mind, consciousness, knowledge and experiences.
Although this interest was fostered during my time at John Colet, it continued throughout high school at Brigidine College St Ives, and into my time at Macquarie University.

Now, I find myself having completed a Bachelor of Science - Psychology. I consider Psychology somewhat a sibling of Philosophy in that it is an empirical science that seeks to understand, analyse and explain the workings of the brain and the neurological processes which underlie thought, experience, perception etc.

I am specifically interested in Child and Neuropsychology. Consequently, I am taking this year off from Uni to focus on completing a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care, before heading back to complete my Honours in Psychology, and then hopefully my Masters as well.

Congratulations on all you've achieved so far, Sally!

sally youdale alumni 2 web

Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni catch-up: Rafe Skidmore

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Stick a Smile ( is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to make the world a happier place through empowering people with the act of smiling.

It’s the brainchild of John Colet School graduate, Rafe Skidmore.

“We distribute free stickers with quotes reminding people to smile written on them, to anyone who asks. These people in turn distribute those stickers to loved ones, or strangers, or they stick them somewhere people will see them!

“I've always disliked how there is so much unhappiness and hatred in our world and I sought to change this somehow. So I thought up the idea of stick a smile.

“People can get involved by contacting us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. where they can ask for free stickers and be involved with the movement!

“I'm loving high school at Glenaeon.  I have a great group of friends which I'm very close to and school is really enjoyable because of it. My subjects are: Physics, Mathematics, English (Advanced), Extension 1 English, Modern History, Software Design and Development and Music 2. I don't work part-time but rather when I'm not doing schoolwork I work on stick a smile.

“My fondest memories of my time at JCS were those when I felt as part of a community where everyone knows everyone. Those were the most special times now looking back. Such as at the Sports Carnival or just passing people in hallways and saying 'hi!' Those are the memories I cherish the most.

“The main thing I took from my time at JCS was that of questioning the world around me. In a world where people live by the status quo, John Colet told me to question my surrounds, question and see what truly is right for me and the people that surround me. So in summary, learning how to think critically is the biggest thing I took from my time at JCS.”

Thanks Rafe!  Keep smiling.

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Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni catch-up: Oscar Smith

oscar playing organ

Oscar Smith pictured playing the largest pipe organ in France - St Eustache, Paris.

John Colet School graduate Oscar Smith has just started his first year of a Bachelor of Music Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, a branch of the University of Sydney.

This follows a tremendous result in his IB Music exam last year, achieving a 7/7 (equivalent of a Band 6 HSC) and topping his high school, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, in Music.

 “Of course, the strong music program during my time (at John Colet) is what initially nurtured my love of music, kindling a lifelong passion,” he says generously.

Oscar entered JCS Lower First in 2002 and graduated in 2006. In his final year he was an exemplary Head Chorister, and was in both our Senior Choir and the John Colet Choir from as soon as he was old enough to audition.   

Mrs Sarah Mane was his teacher (all the way through, as was our old system) and Oscar was taught piano by Miss Judith Irvine (who was also our Choir Director and has since retired).  Oscar credits them both with being important mentors throughout his primary schooling; fostering his interest and huge ability in music.

He says JCS had other great lessons for him too:

“I learned that I am very interested in philosophy through spiritual discussions of different kinds, and also music and discussing music.

“This was spurred by the highly spiritual/philosophical foundations of John Colet, which were integrated into every class, and the teacher's explicit discussion of them with students.  It's not just the motto or in the mission statements like it is for other schools, it’s the practical integration of spirituality into the entire school life that leads to a holistic experience and understanding of philosophical concepts.”  

Of his many fond memories of John Colet School, some moments clearly stand out:   
“Such as intentionally distracting Mr Mane (an easy task!) in Latin by asking how the ear worked.  This resulted in a full lecture and diagram for the whole class…”

“Singing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" at our Year 6 Farewell Party; exploring bush 'out of bounds' areas, claiming and renaming little sections of the bush; and Mulberry and Honeysuckle picking on Wyatt Oval.”

Oscar went on to become Head Chorister, Organ Scholar and Choral Scholar at St Andrew’s Cathedral School.  He says being Organ Scholar was the toughest role – bringing high responsibility, constant pressure, and an administrative side as well.  

Understandably, Oscar says he hasn’t thought too far ahead yet as far as career plans go…

“But hopefully I'll be able to hold multiple musician jobs in order to make a living (music is tough!), and perhaps move into Music Teaching.  Miss Irvine had hoped that I’d come back to John Colet to teach piano and music some day, so that may well be on the horizon.”

Thank you Oscar, we would be delighted to have you!

Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni Catch-up: James Donald

James Donald was one of the very first students at John Colet School. Thirty years ago he started as a Lower First student in the school his mother, Judith Donald, co-founded with Mary McKendrick. At this time the school was in a two storied house on Falcon Street in North Sydney.  

“I had Mrs Dunn in 5th class, and she got me on track with maths. You don’t think about those seemingly small steps at the time, but her attitude of ‘roll your sleeves up and get into it’, well it set me on a different path. I remember the effect her support and enthusiasm had on me. Maths has never been my strongest subject, but here I am now doing a very statistics focussed and quantitative PhD…”

“It was with Mrs Dunn that we did the first ever Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on stage at the Police Boys Club next door to the school. Mrs Dunn likes to remind me that I learnt all my lines in two days or something, but I think we were just responding to her passion. In 6th class we did Julius Caesar at Mahratta (The School of Philosophy head office in Wahroonga).

“My 5th class year was Mr Mane’s second year at the school, and it was in that year that he and the teachers introduced the House system. We had an assembly in one of the upstairs rooms at the house at 210 Falcon St and I remember the excitement among the 30 or so children, hearing who would be in each house. I was in Phillip.”

James says it was a huge transition from tiny little John Colet School, taught by women, to the very large Scots College in the Eastern suburbs, taught mostly by men.

“I was 11 years old - I’d started school at 4 -and it was a huge jump for a fairly sensitive kid. Academically I was fine, and the grounding in values and ethics and being a good citizen, that all stood me in good stead, but the transition socially was the biggest challenge.”

After a Gap year in 1998, where James worked for Scots College at their Outdoor Education Centre in Kangaroo Valley, he started a BA at Sydney University but switched to Economics halfway through.

“When I finished that degree, I was 24 and still not sure what I wanted to do, so I volunteered in Vietnam for a year, teaching economics at a University in Hanoi. Hardly anyone spoke English, even in the cities. I learnt Vietnamese with a teacher, and I got quite good at it. It was a really significant year for me, getting away from a white, middle class, private school world.

“The other significant thing that happened there was I connected with a Buddhist Monastery, through friends, and it was a link back to what I’d known at John Colet School with the meditation. I organised meditation programmes at the Monastery for expats living in Hanoi, and I really enjoyed doing that. It showed me that the focus on stillness I’d received from my education at John Colet and the School of Philosophy is truly universal.”

Back in Australia, James worked for the next three years with Australia’s Official Development Assistance Agency, then called AusAid. He was with a team of economists and analysts based in Canberra, managing the Australian aid programme to East Timor and looking at the associated economic policy issues. After that, he had a three year stint in the Commonwealth Treasury, working on the Rudd Labour Government’s health reforms, doing the economic analysis of the Federal Government’s funding and reform package for hospitals.

It was during this period that James was nurturing a desire to change career focus.

“I was thinking about ways I could work more in line with what I see as important, and taking into account my long-term interest in the practice of philosophy and meditation. I wanted to devote myself to something that would enable people to transform themselves and yet be accessible to them.”

A meeting with Dr Craig Hassed (who presented on mindfulness at John Colet School last term)  in 2012 in Canberra was the inspiration James was looking for, prompting his move away from economic policy and analysis, into a PhD assessing the impact of mindfulness in the work environment.

“I had a First Class Honours degree, so I was eligible for a PhD and I was lucky to get a government scholarship enabling me to do fulltime research. I’m looking at workplace stress and resiliency, how people deal with setbacks and crises. Does mindfulness training help? To what extent do people with a naturally mindful disposition cope? How effective are existing mindfulness programs, in the context of workplace resilience? This is the ambit of the research my colleagues and I are doing. It’s fantastic and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

James Donald lives in Sydney with his wife Gauri, a dietician, and their very new baby daughter Alethea who is one month old. James serves on the Board of Governors of John Colet School.


Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni Catch-up: Georgina Condos

Georgina Condos has been very much enjoying a prac session at Willoughby Public School. For eight weeks on Tuesdays and Fridays, she has been assisting a Year 2 class and their teacher.

“Willoughby Public is a really big school, with more than a thousand children. They don’t pause or meditate, and the children mostly live locally, so it’s quite different to John Colet.

“At the moment I’m taking small group tasks with some of the students, but in a few weeks I’ll be planning lessons and actually taking whole lessons myself.”

Georgina is half way through her four year Bachelor of Primary Education at the Australian Catholic University in North Sydney. Practical sessions are a chance to put into practice what’s been covered in lectures: how to develop lesson plans, how to get and keep a classes’ attention, and classroom management.

“The good thing [about doing your teaching degree at ACU] is that you do pracs a lot earlier than you would do, say, at Sydney University. So there’s no chance of getting to 4th year and finding out that you don’t like teaching...”

Last year, she had a prac placement at a primary school in Paddington, but she says her decision to become a teacher was cemented much earlier...

“I worked with Mrs Tefay on my Gap year in 2011, with her Lower First class, and I really loved it. And then I had three months travelling, which I also loved!

Georgina went to JCS between 1998 and 2004, and had Mrs Kearney the whole way through. She went on the Monte St Angelo College where she did ‘all rounder’ subjects like Biology, Maths and Ancient History for HSC in 2010.

“Nobody else had done any Shakespeare at all when we did it in Year 7, so that was definitely a benefit of going to John Colet. Also you gain a network of people and friends in your life and lots of opportunities come from that. Like meditation, you can feel the benefits if you do it for five minutes, you’re much better off afterwards. I still meditate often, but not religiously.”

Georgina currently works part time at John Colet School in the library, helping Mrs Hanson with bar-coding all the library books and putting all the books on to the computer system after the school fire.

She has a younger sister Sophia and younger brother Alex, all graduates of JCS.

Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni Catch-up: Alex Ladomatos


This week’s alumni catch-up guest is Alex Ladomatos, who you may recognise from the sports fields of John Colet as he works with us part-time on Fridays assisting Mr Roslin and Mrs Keating.

Alex joined JCS half way through Lower First in 1999 and he had Mrs McKendrick as a teacher all the way through.

“The school doubled in size while I was here. There were nine in my class in Lower First, then 20 in 3rd class, then 15 graduated with me in 2005.”

Alex went on to North Sydney Boys and from there, Sydney University. In his first year at uni, he did International Studies (being good at French), and then got into his true vocation; Physiotherapy.

Now in the third year of a four-year degree, Alex says he absolutely loves it.

“I like working in a communicative environment, that’s why I enjoy sport, interacting one-on-one or with a team, and that’s what appeals to me about physio.”

Alex is currently in the under 23 Australian Ultimate Frisbee Team, “The Goannas”, and toured with them to the World Championships in 2013 and will go again this year to London. He describes the AIS-recognised sport of Ultimate Frisbee as being “a bit like seven a side, netball and soccer all rolled into one”.

“Ultimate is a limited-contact team field sport played with a frisbee.  You get points by passing the disc to a teammate in the opposing end zone. You can’t run with the disk, but you can intercept throws and it’s very fast and physical”.  See some great photos of Alex and others in action here.

Alex credits being part of the School of Philosophy’s Group for teenagers during his high school years for reinforcing the ethos of John Colet School.

“It helped in the transition to a really big high school, just to have that contact with John Colet friends. Unfortunately uni and Frisbee have got in the way time wise, so I’m not a member right now.

“I learnt a lot of social stuff and life skills at JCS because here there is a chance to focus on those things from a young age,” he says.

And his colleagues here at JCS agree. Says Mr Roslin:

“Alex Ladomatos is presently working for the school as a sports coach. He is an excellent coach, with a wonderful understanding and approach to the work. He is reliable, committed, and knowledgeable and has a friendly but firm manner that demands the respect of the children.

I think Alex has an advantage in that having previously been a student at the School he has a deep and meaningful understanding of the needs of John Colet School.”

Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni Catch-up: Eleanor McKendrick

“When I graduated, there were four in 6th class and 15 in the entire school,” says Eleanor McKendrick, this week’s Alumni Catch-up guest and a founding pupil of John Colet School.

“So we were often in composite classes, and in very different buildings (at Falcon Street) to nowadays, but beyond that, the ethos of the school and the founding principles are exactly the same today.”

Eleanor is Mrs McKendrick’s daughter, and she and her sister Claire and brother Chris are all graduates of JCS.

She says the strength of the teachers’ commitment to a holistic approach; to the academic, spiritual, social and emotional side of children, enabled her and the other graduates in her year to approach any situation ‘as best they can’.

“It was no issue for me moving on to Monte St Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney, where I was in a class year of over 200 students.”

And she says her career direction has been shaped by her experience at John Colet.

“The commitment shown by the teachers, their focus on developing as human beings, and to the school motto Bear Witness of that Light, seeing that in action every school day inspired me.

“I knew I wanted to work with people. I briefly considered teaching but changed to Speech Pathology, with a Masters in Audiology.”

For the past ten years Eleanor has worked for SCIC Cochlear Implant Centre, a not-for-profit organisation which, as a service of the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, is Australia’s largest cochlear implant program. It provides fully integrated cochlear implantation, rehabilitation, therapy, education and early intervention services.

“I joined SCIC as an audiologist, and then spent five years in the UK, setting up a Cochlear Implant program within the National Health Service.

“Now back at SCIC, I’m the Operations Manager, so I manage the day to day operations of the cochlear implant centres in NSW, ACT and Northern Territory; ensuring the business structure, policies and procedures for all our clinical teams are benchmarked against global best practice.

She is also doing an MBA and training to become a fitness instructor, and credits JCS for instilling in her the importance of a well-rounded education, of not stagnating, and of always working to reach your potential.

“Stillness and mindfulness has given me a tool kit for responding to different situations – by actively practising mindfulness, it becomes a part of your life.”


Eleanor counts the four JCS graduates in her year as her close friends. She is outdoorsy, cycles to work every day and loves physical exercise. Here she is pictured at Everest Base Camp in 2012.


Categories: Alumni, John Colet


Alumni Catch-up: Maya Skidmore

Maya Skidmore, who graduated JCS in 2008, and completed her HCS last year at St Luke’s, is currently working hard to save money for her travels in May this year.

She is going to be a Gap student with our sister school St James in London, and use the time to travel around Europe.

Maya did Visual Arts for HSC and says the theme she chose for her major work was very much informed by her time here at John Colet.

“I’ve always remembered The Seven Ages of Man (the monologue from William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act II Scene VII) since we did it one year for Shakespeare. I wanted to show how it’s still relevant today. I did a series of pastel portraits of 21st century women, from a range of settings and societies, to show how women can still be ‘players’ or victims of our roles.

Maya has been accepted into Journalism at UTS and Arts/Law at Macquarie, so she’s weighing up a tough decision and will start one or the other in 2016.

In the meantime, she is working in restaurants and doing HSC tutoring in English. She is also available for babysitting and/or homework help, so do help her out with some work if you can before she leaves.

Maya’s sister Roxana is currently in 6th class at JCS and her brother Rafe, who also came here, is at Glenaeon.


Categories: Alumni, John Colet