Message from the Outgoing MCOBA President

The time has come…

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —

So too has the time come for me to write my final newsletter as President of the MCOBA. The AGM is upon us, and once again it will take a virtual format this year, and I encourage you to make the time to attend. Last year we had participants in over 16 countries, and it was an overwhelming success. The social distancing phenomenon has really catapulted our home-based engagement and participation to a brand-new level over the past year or so. The Exec committee has driven several significant innovations that have allowed us to engage with Old Collegians across the globe. Our Exec has had active and value adding participation from as far afield as Cape Town and we look to expand this even further afield in the coming year. So please add your RSVP  and I look forward to engaging on 22 April at 18h00 PMB time.

It is a good time to reflect, not on my Presidency, but rather on what it means to be a College Old Boy. Like so many, I did not shine particularly brightly at school, did not rise to the heady heights of Prefect, 1st XV or academic colours. However, like so many boys, I found my niche in the school and participated in several activities (in retrospect I should have participated in far more – but that is often the regret of passing years). Being a College Old Boy just seemed to be a privilege that was afforded me without me doing much myself. As the years passed, I have appreciated this more and more. Meeting fellow OCs in remote parts of the world, sharing reunions with my old class and team mates, and realising that there is a quality and an intangible connection of shared values moulded through our formative years. The connection across generations: the wizened greybeards from a time well before us being at ease with a young man fresh from his time at school, always amazes me, and fills me with a deep sense of respect and awe for the special bond that binds us.

It is a bond that cannot be quantified and created through money or brilliant marketing. Many schools look to the College Old Boys Association as the foremost school alumni in South Africa, a fact borne out by the quip, “How can you tell a boy is from College? He’ll tell you!”. While spoken in jest, it is a testament to the honour we feel of having had the opportunity to be part of this tribe. One of the newer schools in the area contacted me to try and learn from us and build their own alumni based on our success – my reply was that they needed a few old scholars die in various wars, have sportsmen represent their country in all the major disciplines, have a host of successful businessmen and have innumerable multi-generational families returning their progeny to the school to experience the old walls that bind the hearts of men.

Nothing illustrates this to me more than a simple WhatsApp that was shared by one of my classmates on our Class of 85 group:

Just in the process of hiring a young College Old Boy (here in Dubai) from the new generation of College students and have to say he stands out above all the other candidates – values and qualities instilled by College definitely seems to have made a lasting impression on him.   Even though (we are) from different generations and different backgrounds there was a strange connection.”

I thank you for the trust that you as OCs have shown in me to lead the Association over the past 3 years. I am humbled by the privilege I have had to be able to contribute in some small way to the continued journey of our 124-year-old association. I look forward to remaining involved and wish the incoming President and his Executive Committee all the best with the path ahead.

Pro Aris et Foci

Grant Little