Returning to the long established tradition for the annual Founder’s Day procession and service, the Robert Gordon’s community gathered to celebrate the foundations of learning set by Robert Gordon almost 300 years ago.

Steve Parkinson, Class of ‘85, Chief Strategic Partnerships and Events Officer at Bauer Media Group has spent most of his career in tv, radio and theatre. He has been Content and Marketing Director then latterly Managing Director for radio brands such as KISS, Absolute, Magic, Jazz FM and Scala, normally working backstage and away from the mic. Thirty-seven years after leaving the Auld Hoose as a pupil, Steve took centre stage as the 2022 Founder’s Day orator, encouraging pupils to “explore their imagination.”

He shared, “Much of Robert Gordon’s success was down to his absolute focus on forward thinking. He was future facing; feet pointing forward - not just as the successful businessman, but looking beyond his life in order to leave a lasting legacy that would endure. Robert Gordon, even centuries ago, had the foresight to include the arts as well the sciences and trades. At the one end “Science” meaning something measured and objective; and at the other “Art” being subjective; a skill cultivated through imagination, curiosity and creativity. What a fantastic foundation of learning for the school, supporting all pupils whether they might be financier or pharmacist, scientist or cinematographer, entrepreneur or entertainer – let’s rightly celebrate all ambitions and aspirations.

“I’m grateful to both Robert Gordon and to the school for having values that have acted like a sturdy lighthouse helping me to navigate my life’s journey through the white water rapids of the world we are living in today.”

Reflecting on what he would tell his 15 year old self, Steve shared three key phrases, “Responsibility is taken not given - get stuck in, don’t wait to be asked, lean in, sort stuff. Respond, don't react - keep perspective by responding rather than reacting. Eat your frog for breakfast - if you get the hardest stuff done at the start of the day, how brilliant will the rest of your day be.”

Leaving the audience with a final thought, he said, “I read an interesting book during the summer called “4,000 weeks” by Oliver Burkeman. It’s about time management and prioritising what’s important in life to help you make the most of it. What will you do? How might you go about it?  What could your legacy be?”

One of Steve's former teachers, Phyllis Thomson commented, “Steve is 100% a terrific model for any RGC pupil. He wholeheartedly represents our school motto: Be all you can be. No obstacle confounded him: over it, under it, he was resourceful and got round it. And such a nice boy!”

The day began with the RGC Pipe Band delivering a powerful performance of the Founder’s Day March to welcome Steve as he entered the school gates. He spoke with Junior pupils in the morning at MacRobert Hall, followed by the Senior School service at St Nicholas Kirk. The RGC Pipe Band led the Senior School procession down Schoolhill and along Back Wynd to St Nicholas Kirk. Hosting the formal proceedings, Rev Robert Smith welcomed the audience followed by a tribute to Robert Gordon by the Head of College, Robin Macpherson, and readings by School Captains, Francesca and Matthew (S6).

In the MacRobert Hall, S1 pupils welcomed Richard Stewart, Class of ‘88, Centre Fundraising Manager for Maggie’s Centres to their dedicated service to celebrate impact. 

He shared, “There was one skill I developed at school which played a big part in the success I achieved. I joined the debating society for fun. However, the experience equipped me with skills that have served me throughout my career. The ability to craft an argument. The confidence to stand up and face an audience. The nerve to think on my feet and hold my ground when challenged. In fact, I went on to specialise in pitching for new business as I honed my skills.”

Speaking about redefining values, Richard highlighted, “Whereas before, salary and status had been most important, I now place more importance on doing the right thing, serving others, on acting with integrity, being true to myself and practising wisdom to guide my decision making. After that, I turned my back on marketing and transferred my skills to the charity sector. I put my efforts into fundraising and winning partnerships and sponsorships for children’s charities. 

“In the real world you don’t always get a happy ending. No matter what you do in your life there will be times you end up disappointed. It’s how you react that will define you. This highlights another value that I believe is essential for success. Resilience – the ability to bounce back when things don’t go your way. Resilience is your inner strength; you might need to dig deep to find it. Take my advice. When disappointment comes. Don’t give up. Get over it. Learn from it. And then go again.”

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