STAYING at school for 51 years has been Robert Out’s idea of a successful life.
At 59, Robert, better known as Bob to everyone except his mother, has spent 51 years at Padua College, Kedron.
He has gone from student to classroom teacher, the school’s second lay vice-rector, and eventually became its first lay rector after the college’s founders, the Franciscan friars, stepped down in 2001.
November 25 was the last time Bob heard the Padua school bell ring, signalling the end of another school year before he steps down from his job as rector next week.
Throughout his entire career, the Franciscan friars have been a source of inspiration.
“I wouldn’t presume to think I know everything about the Franciscan way of life or anything about Francis or everything about the order but it has been a critical part of my journey and it’s been formative in the sort of person that I am, for better or for worse,” Bob said.
Life’s betterments have included meeting his wife Julieanne and raising his three sons, one of whom teaches at Padua College, and watching six grandchildren grow up.
Among the worst was being told he had kidney cancer in 2012, with “no rhyme or reason” why.
“Initially I must say there were a few moments of despair but when I found out I was responding to the medication it changed things dramatically, to say the least,” Bob said.
“I always have said that it’s God’s power and the power of modern medicine which is a gift from God in any case, all of that combined, it makes you hopeful.”
Retirement will be a chance to have “an easier life”.
In fact, when the world rings in 2017, it will also be the first time Bob doesn’t count down the days to the start of another school year.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Bob says, laughing.
Bob’s destiny at Padua College started with his father.
“I was fortunate that my parents decided to send me to Padua and that my father annoyed the living daylights out of (Franciscan) Fr Odoric (Fathers) to let me in,” Bob said.
“He was a baker pastry cook and he worked in at the Valley and he would call in once a week, every week on his way home from work at about two o’clock and knock on Fr Odoric’s classroom door and ask him if there was a vacancy.
“So obviously Fr Odoric got annoyed enough to let me in.”
Bob started at the college at the age of nine, and from then became the centre of many puns.
The best pun came out of the mouth of his religion teacher, Franciscan Father Peter Dillon.
Religion classes in the school had begun using a social justice magazine resource called Move Out.
“And so when I came into class, Fr Peter said to me, ‘Get your Move Out out, Out,’ and then just fell about laughing thinking it was hilariously funny,” Bob said.
Other teachers have left more inspiring impressions.
An older teacher, Jim Peters, gave Bob, who was just 10 years old, the teaching bug.
“At that time I thought, ‘Gee, I’d like to be like him and teach’,” Bob said of Mr Peters.
“He was a very good man who had the best interests at heart.
“Nothing from that point to when I became a teacher ever changed that.”
In 1974 Bob completed his final year at Padua College before embarking on what he calls a “holiday” from school life, studying teaching at the University of Queensland.
Before he graduated with the degree, a Padua College friar, who later became rector, suggested Bob apply for two positions – a vacant teaching job and to be a Franciscan priest.
“Yes, yes, getting towards the end of the uni, apart from offering (a job), he suggested it would be an opportunity to join the friars, that I would make a good friar,” Bob said, laughing.
“But at the time I was going out with my now wife, so it was a question of which vocation.
“So I chose my wife, obviously.”
Bob also chose to apply for the vacant teaching role, making it to the interview stage.
What seemed like “all the friars in the friary” were waiting for him in the allocated interview room, which Bob has called his office as rector for the past 16 years.
“And I actually came into this room for the interview and then it was part of the friary, and I wasn’t expecting as I came through that door and had a look, and seated around the room were just about what seemed like all the friars in the friary,” he said.
“There must have been about eight or nine friars on this panel, which was quite confronting at the time because some of them I knew and some I didn’t.”
The friars gave their tick of approval and Bob took up his first classes as a professional teacher in 1977. A year later, he was offered a position as form teacher, an “interesting experience” because he suddenly became the boss of his former teachers.
He moved up the ranks to be vice-rector for 14 years before eventually successfully taking on the role as rector.
Bob is leaving the job to the former principal of St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, Peter Elmore, known for his sharp eye on footy players.
“We’re coming off back to back premierships in the Associated Independent Colleges, which is a reasonable feat, so if he doesn’t do well in the rugby there’ll be all sorts of criticisms,” Bob said.
But Bob is happy to pass the baton to the next rector, and end his long stint at the one school.
“I’m very comfortable with the decision,” he said. “Padua needs someone new in the position, probably someone with a bit more energy than I have.
“Padua won’t be lost to me because my son teaches here, my grandson’s in Year 2 over there at St Anthony’s, so it’s not as if I won’t have an association with the school.
“But I think it for the betterment of the school there needs to be a new rector to take up the challenges of leading the school, especially a school that Padua has grown into because it’s a much bigger place.
“I think Peter’s going to be good for Padua College.”
One thing is certain – Padua College has been good for Bob.
“I’ve spent 51 years of my 59 years here at Padua, or just about, apart from a four year holiday at uni, in which case I was still hanging around anyway in one form or another,” Bob said.
“It’s just shaped the person that I am now.”