Pupils, staff and Gordonians across the world joined together for the 2021 Founder’s Day service to celebrate our founder, Robert Gordon. 

Emil Hewage (Class of ‘06), Co-founder and CEO of BIOS - a world leading neural interface and AI company - returned to Schoolhill as the 2021 Founder’s Day Orator sharing words of motivation to virtual  audiences of junior and senior  pupils. 

The day began with the RGC Pipe Band delivering a powerful performance to welcome Emil as he entered the school gates along with his mother Sumithra and brother Kalon, Class of ‘08. Children from the Junior School were also out proudly waving flags to provide a strong welcome back to Robert Gordon’s College. 

Streaming live from the Craig Centre for Performing Arts, the P7 Choir sang ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ and following a warm welcome from Head of Junior School, Mrs Webb, Emil took to centre stage.

Joining the College in Primary 4, Emil reflected on his time at school detailing that he wasn’t always the loudest and confident of pupils, “From being scared to leave class when the bell rang to where I am now, Robert Gordon inspired me to make one idea, a big one.”

Emil highlighted the importance of community sharing, “Founder’s Day is all about looking at where we are today and realising that together we can generate bigger ideas. No matter your age, you will have something in common with a 60 year old Gordonian and you can learn from them.”

In his closing words to the Junior School Emil stressed three important things for pupils to remember; "be brave, work hard and keep trying lots of things you are curious about.” Mrs Webb proudly closed the junior service adding, “When you don’t achieve your goal the first time around, keep going and you will achieve it if you put your heart and soul into it.” 

Emil’s first teacher Mrs Geddes shared: “I have very fond memories of my first class at RGC and of Emil, who was a quiet, unassuming pupil. He was never one to boast about his abilities, but had a genuine love of learning and a determination to make the most of the opportunities available to him. It is wonderful to see the spectacular achievements such entrepreneurial spirit can lead to.”

Opening the start of the senior school service, members of the RGC Pipe Band opened the service with the Founder’s Day March. Leading the formal proceedings, Rev Robert Smith welcomed the virtual audience followed by a tribute to Robert Gordon by the Head of College, Robin Macpherson, and readings by School Captains Ailsa P and Anish S.

Taking to the stage for the senior Oration, Emil inspired pupils speaking about the importance of curiosity, he said, “Curiosity made me work in the financial sector, then in Formula 1 and then in brain scanning magnets which taught me that curiosity will solve big world problems and in 2010 this random journey taught me about something new and cool – machine learning and AI.

“It fascinated me so much that I turned down job offers in Formula 1 and at Goldman Sachs to start a PhD. For me, I finally found the one skill that made me feel confident to stop learning and to start changing things too. The real thing I learned in that four years was just that one truth about myself – that I knew what mattered. I just hadn’t realised that you can be brave enough to rely on that one thing as the only solid ground in a whole career.” 

Continuing to look to the future, Emil encouraged the audience to consider the next thirty years and the impact a Gordon’s pupil can have on the world, he said: “The past 30 years were about growth. The world grew, Robert Gordon’s grew more diverse leading pupils into energy, technology and finance to help reshape the world. The next thirty years will be about impact. RGC will have a story to tell. What did we do to help? What problems did we help solve? And the best thing about being a Gordonian is that you are never doing it alone.

“You are being taught things about entrepreneurship and AI that took me fifteen years to realise. Now that you have that knowledge today, think about how much time you have saved! Your teachers are working tirelessly to arm you for this future, the rest of Gordonians are out there waiting to join your mission.

“The learning and the doing should continue forever. Decide what matters and have the courage just to try to do what is right. Even if you feel scared, tired or it is difficult. Keep going and just do it now, you will be great.”

The full recording of the Founder’s Day Service can be viewed below.