Rector’s eNews – 15 February 2023/ Rector's eNews
At Monday’s assembly, I congratulated the boys on what has been, in general terms, an excellent start to the academic year. The boys have been full of purpose, highly committed and spirited; it has been exceptionally busy for most of them as they re-focused in the academic arena and a large number have been involved with matches and summer sports and, at the same time, many have begun preparing for the winter sports season.
Friendships are built and consolidated through a common purpose with others in academic and cultural activities, sport and especially through boarding in an all-boarding environment. This will have happened for the vast majority of the Michaelhouse boys and this is partly why so many of them are so committed to each other and their school and find it so fulfilling to be here.
In the 1930’s, Harvard began research on human happiness which has continued through to the current day. Some ninety years ago, Harvard invited 19-year-old students, along with those from the poorest districts of Boston to participate in a project to determine what made people happy. The assumption was that young people would think that fame, fortune and hard work would buy them happiness, but the Harvard study has challenged that notion and this has continued under Robert Waldburger, the 4th Director of the Harvard study which has been clear in the view that social connections are what make people most happy. This is based on three platforms:
• Having social connections is far better for our health and well-being than anything else and loneliness is very detrimental to health and well-being
• Having higher-quality connections is more important than the number of social associations – in other words, having a few close friends with a common outlook and purpose is more significant to people than being able to boast of a plethora of social media acquaintances
• Good relationships are important for our bodies and also our brains: relationships stimulate us and see us at our best in physical terms and in discourse with others.
Without wanting to hammer home the point too far, there is much to be gained from being happy or contented in everyday life and this is, perhaps, accentuated in one’s formative years. I believe good relationships, worthwhile friendships and association with people with a common purpose are more likely to be established in boarding schools than when teenagers go home every afternoon and reduce the prospect of consolidating and developing those associations.
In an era in which some parents may be considered by their friends to be almost irresponsible for allowing their children to go to boarding school (“I didn’t have children to send them off to boarding school”) it is interesting to ponder on the Harvard study and its potential implications for us.
On another matter, I have just been sent a photograph of an Old Boy, Olympic Gold Medallist, Jean van der Westhuysen after whom the dam on our campus has recently been named. He is pictured below receiving the Order of Australia from Her Excellency the Hon Jeanette Young, Governor of Queensland, at a ceremony in Brisbane. He is wearing his Old Boys’ tie!
Well done to our Old Boys who are flying the flag for Michaelhouse both in this country and many other parts of the world!