Celebrating 30 years of co-education at Robert Gordon’s College, one of the first girls to attend the College walked back through the gates today to deliver the annual Founder’s Day oration. The school community welcomed back Head of Interpretation at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Bryony Shepherd joined by Laura Steedman, Mechanical Engineer, BP.

Bryony, Class of ‘98 spoke to the Junior School children about her role at the museum and how storytelling is an important way for us to understand the world around us, whatever age. Bryony highlighted: “Don’t give up on things that are hard or seem a bit frightening. We need challenges in our life to keep growing and learning. Nobody is perfect, but we can all do the best we can - that’s our superpower! You might surprise yourself. And that funnily enough really is what our school motto says: Omni Nunc Arte Magistra – be all you can be. I’ve managed to make my way in the world not by being perfect but by remembering this motto!”

She joined the procession to St Nicholas Kirk where she addressed the S2-S6 pupils encouraging them to grow and learn from challenges. Highlighting people and teamwork, Bryony said: “People are wonderfully different. Since university I have continued to travel to other places, journeying further and staying away longer. The more countries I see the more I realise how important it is to get to know lots of different people. You need to understand those around you to be able to work together. Because you can do your best but you cannot do everything yourself, we all need help from each other and to be able to work in a team. So talk to your friends and make every effort to understand new people when you meet them – that’s the secret to becoming a great team member.”

Sharing her experiences of when things don’t go to plan Bryony told the children how redundancy motivated her to challenge herself to apply for positions outwith her comfort zone, “Try to make the best of the setbacks life can bring, sometimes wonderful things can come out of bad situations. There’s a whole world out there, and you have the power to go out there, get to know lots of different people, try hard, fail happy and be all that you can be.”

Bryony summarised: “I am still friends with the girls and boys I met here at school, and all in very different careers and industries. When I talk to them, I realise that this is very much because of the confidence that this school gave us. We have all followed our own path and achieved successful careers because we left Robert Gordon’s excited, knowing that the big wide world out there was not a scary prospect, but was ours to discover and explore.”

Laura, Class of ‘11 spoke to S1 pupils about some of the challenges that the world is facing and how the decisions they make in the next few years will enable them to tackle these. She highlighted how pushing herself out of her comfort zone at school was key and how she originally planned to be a dolphin trainer. Motivating the audience she encouraged them to be competitive with themselves, find their inner drive and elevate others.

Talking about some of her experiences from her time at school Laura said: “Can you believe that nearly 9 years ago I wrote in my sixth-year prefect application form 'one day, I aspire to be brought back to the College as a Founders Day speaker'. Be careful what you wish for.” 

Raising laughter around the audience, Laura shared her original plans when she was in S1: “When I was sat there, can you guess what I wanted to be? I wanted to be a dolphin trainer! It was in S5, as if by some sort of divine intervention, I saw this poster outside of maths class for 'Headstart Broad-based Engineering course'. This was a week-long residential course at university where you got to try out the subject. Now, I'll be honest - the only reason that I applied was because it would fulfil the residential part of my Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award. But, I absolutely loved it. And that just goes to show how trying new things can lead to your destiny.”

Laura challenged the S1 pupils to “try something that you’ve never done before this term. Prepare yourselves to have a broad skill set. After all, every one of the global challenges will require you to attempt things history has never seen done before.”

Mr Mills, Head of College commented: “This year has been truly inspiring hearing from two guest speakers from the arts and engineering. It is always a delight to see former pupils return and share their stories and experiences beyond school. Year on year I see a consistency amongst all our speakers who continue to share the ambition of our founder Robert Gordon, and the College to inspire the next generation to be all you can be.”

Participating in her last Founder’s Day, Imaani (S6) shared: As this Founder’s Day would be my last, I found myself reflecting on my journey throughout the school. This year's S2-6 speaker, Bryony Shepherd, reflected on her time here as a student and I came to realise that I too would soon be joining a long line of proud Gordonian Girls. This year's Founder’s Day celebrated 30 years of female students within RGC. The day closed with a small but beautiful ceremony at Drums Aisle, where the Chamber Choir sang and wreaths were laid. Here, I looked around to my friends, who I have built life-long relationships with, and to the community of the college that makes the RGC experience a truly unique and special one.”

Experiencing her first Founder’s Day, Daisy (S6) said: “As a new student at Robert Gordon’s, I had no concept of what Founder’s Day actually consisted of until today. It is undeniably an integral part of the school’s sense of identity and community. My first (and last) Founder’s Day clearly holds a lot of nostalgia for my fellow sixth year pupils and, despite my lack of familiarity with it, I will look back on it as a significant part of the essence of RGC. It is a day which commemorates the past, celebrates the present and inspires the future.”