A History of the Alumni Association

From the days of the first graduates, former students of Sacred Heart College have cherished their ties with the school. In 1924, a Past Pupils' Association was formed and this became the predecessor of the Old Collegians' Association established in 1932. The first official reunion took place in 1924 although there had been earlier reunions, the largest of which was in 1910 when the school celebrated its Golden Jubilee.

The first president of the Old Collegians' Association was Mrs Mary McCabe Doyle (nee Ryan) and the secretaries were Miss Aloysia Byrne, who was known for her charity work, and Miss Nellie O'Brien. The Association owes much of its early strength to these three women who helped set up the constitution and through the pages of Mercedes provided a rich account of activities in the group's first decade.

As well as the Geelong based committee, a Melbourne Group was formed in the 1930s and in 1981 a Western District Group was set up to bring together former students from that area, many of whom had been boarders at the school. In the 1940s, a group known as the "Younger Set" was formed and among its activities was the organisation of the 'Return Dance' when recent graduates were presented to the sisters in the Reception Parlour.

Old Collegians' Association, 1960

Sadly, few written accounts of the work of the Association remain as records were lost. The only information about activities comes from the recollection of members and the pages of Mercedes. Although the records were lost, what is known is that the members continued to give their loyal support and contribute to the development of the school and the work of the Sisters of Mercy through their fundraising activities. One of the Associations' first projects was setting up a Bursary Fund and this legally constituted fund continues to assist students today.

Over the years, activities have included performances with the support of the Newtown Players Drama Group, annual balls and debutante balls. Funds were raised through activities and events, including 'Jam Days' when members made and sold jam to support children in St Catherine's and St Augustine's Orphanages and the publication of a hard times cook book entitled "101 Ways with Mince"!

The Old Collegian's Association made a major contribution to the school donating equipment, funds and facilities. One of the Associations' most significant gifts was the installation of the beautiful wrought iron gates at the Aphrasia Street entrance to the school. The gates were donated to mark the centenary of Sacred Heart College in 1960. In 2006, the Association financed the restoration of the gates and the redevelopment of the entrance of the school leading to the new performing arts centre. The area was named the Old Collegian's Cloister to acknowledge the contribution the Association has made to the school.

In 2012, driven by a year long review of the changing demographic of the Association, a change of name and a new direction was decided upon. Mrs Gael Perry, President of the Old Collegian's at the time, announced that the former student group which has more than 7000 members would now be known as the Sacred Heart College Geelong Alumni Association. "When we canvassed the views of our members it became clear that the vast majority were in favour of a name change. The term alumni - meaning former students of a college or school - is more appropriate and relevant. The new association embraces every student who attended Sacred Heart College, Geelong."

And so a new chapter in the history of the former student’s association began. An exciting new chapter for the association as after 80 years in its Old Collegian's format, it was time for a change. The objective of the Alumni Association is to value and cherish what has gone before but also to look to the future as a modern, vibrant association that can play a positive role in the life of the school.

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