Newtown School

Past students’ stories

Over its long history many students have come and gone through the gates of Newtown School. Some of our Old Scholars have written about what Newtown School meant to them.

Janek Mamino – Class of 2006

It is one of the wonders of life that we realise what we have learnt and the joys we have experienced only when the moment is in the past. However, Newtown School is a rare exception to this. Certainly for me I was aware of how happy and lucky I was to be part of such a special community. Perhaps this was highlighted for me as I joined Newtown at 16 to complete my final two years of secondary education.

Of all the lessons, joys and good times I was blessed with at the school, the most lasting one is a sense of quality. From the day I left the school, my personal sense of quality was set very high and this has served me well ever since in all aspects of my life. Every part of my life there was provided with and expected the highest quality. From the lessons the teachers provided, the food of the dining room, the private life of the dorms and the social life of my many friends. Even the grounds and the range of facilities were of the highest quality.

I feel I left the school with a solid idea of the quality of life I should expect and the quality of person I should be. I understood that quality took time to accomplish and I knew the value of it. I appreciate the life I have crafted for myself because I was taught and shown what was possible and how to work for it. Nothing should ever be substandard and for me, Newtown School provided the perfect learning ground for this.

I am happy because I won’t settle for less and I aim always to achieve my very best.

Janek Mamino

Class of 2006


Trisha Freyne – Class of 2006

It’s hard to sum up Newtown School having spent 3 years in Newtown Junior School and moving on to the secondary school as a day pupil, I can only look back and appreciate that I had the opportunity to study there.

Newtown played a very important role in my life, the friends I made there are still my closest friends today and we often reminisce and laugh about our time in school showing it had a positive effect on us all.

Having completed transition year in Newtown, I got a flavour for developing my organisation and event management skills by taking part in a mini company module which ultimately allows students to set up their own company and aim to run it as a team and hopefully make a profit. “Commotion” was extremely successful not only did we generate good profits that year, we managed to raise €9,000 for the Irish Cancer Society by hosting and organising a number of events including a fashion show and charity auction. Having this opportunity to lead and gain hands on experience made me realise I wanted to study Marketing after school and Ken McCormick was happy to back me up when I told him, reassuring me I was making the right decision.

I completed my Marketing degree in DIT and also spent a semester in Canada (John Molsen school of business) as part of it where I got the opportunity to study different modules that weren’t part of my degree.

In DIT, I met Laura Cuddihy, my marketing lecturer and a former Newtown student who has played a key role in helping me build and further my Marketing career.

Having travelled after my degree and worked in several marketing roles, I am now working for AA Ireland as an Acquisition Marketing Executive.

Looking back now, I can easily see how Newtown helped shape the person I’ve become and influence key decisions I’ve made. It’s not your typical secondary school as they focus on developing other attributes as well as education that are just as important to help you fulfil your potential, be it through sport, drama, debating, singing, etc which is why I’d have no hesitation in recommending or assisting the school in anyway that I can in the future.

Richard Dunne – Class of 2007

Looking back since I’ve left Newtown in 2007 it is abundantly clear as to how it has influenced many of the so called “big” decisions I have made in the rapid six years that have passed. I took a year out in Australia after the Leaving Cert to go and explore a different part of the world and get the whole ‘year abroad’ thing out of my system. I don’t think in any way this would have been a consideration had it not been for my six years boarding in Newtown. And it is only now that I realize how much I have benefited from my year abroad straight after school as opposed to heading off now like many of my college mates are doing. After I came back from Australia I studied a Marketing Degree in Dublin Institute of Technology. Within the first week I had a meeting with our class tutor Laura Cuddihy only to discover that she had also gone to Newtown. So from day one in DIT up until now Laura has been a huge help in aiding me with my studies and looking out for me in terms of jobs/ interviews/ internships. I don’t doubt that this is standard procedure for all of Laura’s students but I do think there is a little bit of “Newtown solidarity” that is common practice amongst all of Newtown’s alumni.

Since graduating in Marketing last year I am now working in the AA as a Marketing Assistant (Laura notified me of the job in my final few weeks left in DIT). After three weeks in my new role, there was another new recruit added to the Marketing team, Trisha Freyne who left Newtown a year before me. So to say Newtown has influenced me and my decisions since 2007 would be an understatement to say the least. The life experiences and independence gained from my 6 years boarding in Newtown have made the last 6 years so much easier when it comes to making decisions and knowing what I want to do and what career path I want to take. And I am sure that in the next six years there will be many more paths crossed with past pupils of Newtown School.

Laura Cuddihy (nee Leigh-Doyle) – Class of 1976

I came to Newtown in third year having previously been a boarder in a Catholic all-girls school in Dublin.  To say that change was immense is an understatement! However to this day I feel the knowledge, self-understanding and life skills I gained in NSW over my four year period there were truly formative in shaping my life to date.

I studied Marketing for four years after my Leaving Certificate and was fortunate to immediately get a job in Smith and Nephew (Ireland ) Ltd in Dun Laoghaire on qualification. Over seven years with the company I had brand management, marketing management and sales management roles across their consumer goods, business-to-business and medical divisions. My experiences in Newtown gave me the ability, among other things, to operate easily in what was a predominately male organisation when I joined. Additionally, being part of a team is an everyday aspect of marketing and sales practice and again that came more naturally to me as a result of my Newtown lived experience. However another Newtown -inspired trait, a love of learning and genuine interest in education, led me to undertake post-graduate study and move from the practice of marketing into the teaching of it, firstly in Carlow Regional Technical College and, since 1993, in the College of Business, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Aungier St.

Soon enough forty years will have passed since I left Newtown. My younger sisters, Angela and Paula also were students there subsequently, as were my nieces and nephews Pearse, Ronan, Ruth and Laura Kennedy. We have all benefitted in different ways from our Quaker education and have managed to become decent contributing members of society! To this day I still meet Debbie Bailey, Robert Graham and Vincent Nolan of my graduating class on an almost monthly basis for a catch up. We have had formal and informal reunions, most recently one to welcome Bruce Wenham back to these shores on his visit home from Canada. Debbie “captured” me to assist her trojan work as School Chair and I have been working alongside committed teachers, parents and old scholars on a marketing committee where we strive to raise brand awareness for Newtown in what is a cluttered and competitive marketplace, thus facilitating more students to experience all that is good about a Quaker education.

Over my twenty six years of lecturing I have had many Newtown students, most recently Trish Freyne (Class of 2006) and Richard Dunne (Class of 2007).  It is a tribute to Newtown and their lived experience of the school in that they both immediately agreed to return with me when asked to talk to the then fifth and sixth year students about studying marketing in DIT. Ken McCormick was as thrilled to have three old scholars do a careers talk as these old scholars were to do it – a classic win-win that is so indicative of what Newtown is about.

Paula Leigh-Doyle, Class of 1981

“The courage to take the journey was largely a result of my formation at Newtown School”

I began in Newtown School as a nine year old, Lower Transition pupil in 1973 and spent my formative days through the age of seventeen in the unique environment that has formed my foundation – sprinkled with wonderful memories and very special opportunities. I did not shine academically at Newtown but the Newtown experience was a garden of nutrition for me as a developing adolescent. Its garden provided for all aspects of my development and based upon those successes it opened up a career path for me that now so fully engages my heart, mind and hands. Many of my dear friends at Newtown were academically advanced and continued into rigorous studies and careers. Their successes include environmental stewardship, sustainable farming, pioneering movements in arts and architecture, literature, finance, community development, social justice and law.

Thanks to the doors that opened from my growth at Newtown School, I took the risk to enter upon a professional path that would not only sustain my personal interests but would incidentally shed light upon the discovery and management of a variety of my own gifted uneven developmental abilities that had previously confounded myself, teachers and counsellors at Newtown School. Through later discovery of my own uneven abilities, with characteristic plumage such as dyslexia, I found ways to achieve academically and professionally. The accidental self-discovery is as a result of my work in service to children which has been my fullest engagement and passion. However, the courage to take the journey was largely a result of my formation at Newtown School.

At the age of fourteen, as I warmed my feet on the radiators of the school library, I began to read the writings of Dr. Maria Montessori about education for peace and educating the human potential. I probably understood a third of the content but something resonated with me and seemed to support the aspects of my own school life at Newtown and engaged my bid for independence and contribution to society. Some of those fleeting but influential memories include:

Hugh Dobbs approached the food line from the back and his great stature walked in step with the nine through twelve year olds ahead of him. This moment illuminated a passion for justice within me because in those days, seniors and adults would cut in front of a younger child. Joseph Falvey would show genuine interest and pleasure facilitating deeper intellectual conversation with us in lieu of racing through the linear curriculum and as a result we leaned forward into his lessons with high personal engagement. Roger Garbet spoke to us with the same respect he gave the adults and challenged us to be open to the possibilities within. Mr. Edwards and Alan Pim shared their personal passion for nature, humanities and the work of the hands as they lead us on trips across the Commeragh Mountains, taught us to use tools in the wood shop and engaged our keen interests in our physical health, natural science and biology. Others, including Tim Macy, touched me with their passion for language and Helen O’Byrne with her, then novel, multi media approach to discovering French. FEF (Frederick Edward Foster) embodied what an adolescent perceives to be the most intellectually and emotionally moral model of an adult.

Newtown School still had farm buildings, although some of the space was being sacrificed for sports fields and new dormitories. Its history and legacy of the Quaker life style was still very present in the physical place. Physical place is of great importance to an adolescent.

“The richness of life lessons as a boarding student was ultimately the most valuable formation of my personal self.”

The richness of life lessons as a boarding student was ultimately the most valuable formation of my personal self. As a boarder we experienced how to effectively meet our own needs in context of being part of a larger vibrant social community. Some of my dearest Newtown siblings shared dorms and rooms with me for eight years and then beyond when we left for college in Dublin. Becoming an adult in a social community was formed by the beliefs and priorities that the Quaker ethos that was so honourably served by the adult practitioners at Newtown School.

I had many opportunities for small deviated behaviours but they are far outnumbered by my experience and memories of a community of adults and peers who lived, played and worked together embracing our human vulnerabilities and creating a tolerant, inclusionary, optimistic community of people who have a personal connection to the evolution of a better society. From this formative base I have found myself seeking a similar mission and community of people who work for the development of whole children and the subsequent peace that can evolve.

After twenty years of work with children in the United States in diverse demographics from urban poverty to broadly mixed economic backgrounds, I find myself now as Head of School for Hershey Montessori School in Ohio, serving 240 children from infancy through age fifteen. Hershey is an internationally recognised Montessori school (A.M.I) and is a model of developmental approach to a rigorous education that has many parallels to Newtown School Waterford in days of old. One component that resonates with the ethos and life of my Newtown experience is our farm school for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. Some of the essential parallel ingredients include: The teacher training / unity of mission among the adults, the residential life of a boarding community, the developmental understanding about the psychology of learning and the pedagogy of place (in our case on a small working farm that is managed by the students).

My parents sacrificed much so that I and my sisters could experience this educational community at Newtown School.

In 1914 Dr. Montessori visited Newtown prior to her publishing her essays in the appendix to “From Childhood to Adolescence”. No doubt she learned from her visit to the Newtown community as progressive educators and perhaps she too was influenced by its work when she wrote about the ideal farm school children she termed, “Erdkinder” (earth students).


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