Commencement Service and Commissioning of Head of College

The St Mark’s College community marked the beginning of the 2020 academic year with a Commencement Service held at St Peter’s Cathedral on Friday 28 February 2020. The Service provided an opportunity for students to prepare themselves for living and learning together in the year ahead and to reflect on the mission they have set themselves in embracing a college education.

This year’s Commencement Service was a particularly significant one, as our community gave witness to the Commissioning of Professor Don Markwell as Head of St Mark’s College by the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev’d Geoffrey Smith.

The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson, Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral, warmly welcomed students, staff, family and friends of the College to the Cathedral before the Acknowledgement of Country and opening prayers by the College’s Chaplain, the Rev’d Grant Moore.

In his sermon on “smart thinking”, the Chaplain called for reflection on the value of wisdom and critical thinking. With a series of contemporary and historic anecdotes and reference to the earlier Bible readings (Proverbs 3: 13-18 and Mark 12: 13-17), he discussed the importance of education in developing our minds, and called on us to think of smart thinking as a “lifetime project” in which we must continually seek to develop our critical thinking skill set.

“Truly smart thinking (or analytical .. or critical .. or logical thinking – call it what you will), involves more than the ability to see through semantic sleights-of-hand. It’s actually an extremely comprehensive and arduously acquired skill-set, an essential one for uni students. As well as helping you develop your own rigorous sense of logic, it can enable you to recognise things you’d previously glossed over … fallacious assumptions, hidden bias, ingrained prejudice, subtle nuance … Such a life enhancer! But not only can smart thinking enhance your life – you never know when it might even save it.”

You can read the full sermon here.

For the Commissioning of the Head of College, Professor Markwell was presented to the Archbishop by the St Mark’s College Board Chair, Ms Linda Matthews, the Dean of the College, Professor Peter Tregear, and the President of the College Club Committee, Mr Nicholas Marzohl. Professor Markwell responded with the same declaration made by John Bannon and Rose Alwyn at their Commissioning Services as Master of the College in 2000 and 2008 respectively:

“I, Donald John Markwell, duly appointed as Head of St Mark’s College, promise to uphold the purposes for which the College was founded, as a place of learning and faith, in which the finest qualities are nurtured in a community of scholars; to hold in trust the rich inheritance received from those who have gone before, and to hand it on yet more excellently to those who come after, and to exercise my authority … justly, so that all who live and work and study here may flourish and excel.”

The Archbishop called on the members of the College community to support the new Head of College, with the congregation acclaiming “we will gladly do so”.

In his opening address, Professor Markwell reflected on the founding vision and values of the College, and the role of leaders in guiding the way forward.

“The role of leaders in this community is, in my view, precisely to do what my predecessors and I have promised to do – to uphold those founding purposes. It is to give the best effect we can in our time to the great ideals and values for which the College was founded. Circumstances change, but our purposes and our values endure.

“Above all, our purpose is to give all our students the greatest all-round educational experience we can in a college environment that offers academic support, broader intellectual stimulus, pastoral care, and rich opportunities for engagement in sport, cultural activities, community service, spiritual reflection, and a social life together. It is to be a residential academic community where all who live and work and study here may indeed flourish and excel.”

Drawing on the example of the College’s first Master, Sir Archibald Grenfell Price, and founding College Council member Charles Allan Seymour Hawker MP, Professor Markwell encouraged students to reflect on how many of their predecessors at the College “have married their trained academic minds to ideals of service, using their abilities and their expertise to make a difference for good in the world in the circumstances of their day.” He cited Old Collegians such as former South Australian Premiers Don Dunstan and John Bannon, and Australian of the Year Dr James Muecke AM as further examples of the embodiment of this ideal. Professor Markwell concluded:

“Let us commit ourselves afresh to the great ideals for which the College was founded and for which it exists, and let us all consider how we too may – now and over the decades ahead – devote our trained academic minds to ideals of service, making a difference for good in the circumstances of our day.”

You can read Professor Markwell’s full address here.

The Service concluded with a blessing commonly used at St Mark’s services, with the Archbishop calling on us all to “seek knowledge, strive for wisdom, [and] be of service to others.”

The full order of service for the 2020 Commencement Service can be found here.

The congregation then returned to the Downer House lawns for refreshments followed by a BBQ dinner for students that was hosted by Professor Markwell at the Grenfell Price Lodge.