I would like to share with you, the eulogy I delivered at the funeral of our Founding Principal, Norman Rothman this week. Please see below:
As the current Principal of The King David School I wish to express my community’s enormous sadness at the passing of our founding Principal, Mr Norman Rothman.
As a past student of the School I want to also express my own personal sorrow at the loss of my own founding Principal. For my peers and I, who were students of the School from around the time of its creation, Norman Rothman looms as a very significant figure in our childhood. In my mind’s eye when I think of an image of a school principal the picture I see is of Norman.
When I think of Norman, I conjure a mood, a feeling. It is of warmth, joviality and perpetual good humour.
I remember that a reward for good work or a project was to take the piece to Mr Rothman’s office where he would ask for it to be read to him and then he would adorn it with a special sticker that he reserved for the occasion. A colleague and former schoolmate reflected that she remembered Mr Rothman’s wit on full display in school assemblies. He also had a great trick of announcing loudly, “There is a boy who is speaking!” and instantly each of the boys who were chatting would fall silent, as they were certain that he was speaking about them.
I remember that caught up in the moment after a school concert or event, Norman would take to the stage at the night’s conclusion and would announce with grandiosity that the children could come in a bit later the next day. This was always greeted with rousing cheers by the students, which barely drowned out the moans of our parents who would then have to scramble to reorganise drop off rosters.
We have some incredible archival footage of Norman in the lead up to the first day of the School in 1978. He seemed to be involved in everything. He was the workman with tools in hand, he was lead educator, colleague extraordinaire, he was there to reassure anxious parents and mostly he delighted in being with his beloved students.
Norman was such a Jack-of-all trades that I recall a story shared with me by a former parent of the school. She bumped into Norman at the shops with her son who had not seen him for a number of years since being at the School. She said to her son, “Of course you know who this is.” Her son replied, “Yes, he’s the King David groundskeeper.” She explained that no, Mr Rothman was, in fact, the Principal, and when she asked why he had said that, his response was, “that I remember him always walking around picking up rubbish off the ground.”
Norman was also an inspiring teacher. In fact I grew up to legendary stories of Mr Rothman’s Grade 6 class at Mount Scopus. He was my father and his friends’ favourite ever teacher. My Dad and his peers still talk wistfully about playing the educational games that Mr Rothman invented – Spelling Cricket was a common favourite. It involved the bowling of a word to a student. If they spelled it correctly they would get runs, incorrectly and they were out.
Besides being a personable, engaging and student-oriented principal, Norman was also an educational visionary. Norman once wrote that “a good school should never stand still,” and this was truly reflective of his progressive values. He created a school community that was prepared to trial new things, that explored philosophy for children, taught coding on Apple IIe computers well before it was a buzz word and championed the values of inclusion and egalitarianism from King David’s inception. He inherently understood that this School was for, and of, its community and he dedicated himself to creating a family feel in the beautiful mansions that emanated a homely warmth. Put simply, Norman created a beautiful place to grow up in.
Recently, I had the great privilege of showing Norman through our newly refurbished campus on Orrong Rd. Norman was moved to tears in seeing the incredible growth of the School and was most pleased to understand how along with the wonderful facilities were the same familiar values of inclusion and community. And he, of course, delighted in meeting with our students. Today our students were able to recognise Mr Rothman on his final journey as the funeral procession detoured to enter the grounds of The King David School. Our students stood at attention and 4 demonstrated our gratitude and respect to this truly remarkable educator.
On behalf of the entire King David community, past and present, and the generations of students who have benefited from Mr Rothman’s profound educational approach, I say thank you and farewell. To Sylvia and the Rothman family we extend our sincerest condolences and also our promise that we will forever commit ourselves to ensuring that King David remains a wonderful community school which is true to Norman’s vision and legacy.