Vale Tom Quinn

A tribute by Jim O’Brien

Tom Quinn passed peacefully into eternal life on Wednesday, 10 June with his loving family supporting him. He leaves his wife, Terry, his daughter Therese, son Daniel, their partners and families.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Epping on 15 November 1934, Tom was educated in Epping and Eastwood before going to the Marist Brothers Juniorate in Mittagong in 1949 to complete his secondary education. At the age of 17, he entered the Marist Brothers Novitiate (1951). Professed as a Marist Brother in July 1953, he was known Brother Patricius.

Tom’s first teaching appointment was at Marist Brothers Parramatta (1954-1961) followed by a two-year appointment to Marist Brothers Eastwood (1962-1963). One of Tom’s former students from Marist Brothers, Eastwood, Rod Harding (who now lives in Melbourne), recalls of this time that Tom taught him History and coached him in the Eastwood First XIII and Combined Catholic Colleges Rugby League teams. Tom remained friends of some other Eastwood students from those days, including Ray Liggett, Paul Travers and Paul Summerhouse.

In 1964, Tom was appointed Principal of St Joseph’s Marist Brothers High School in Lismore where he introduced co-education for senior boys and girls (who attended the two single sex schools, Marist Brothers and St Mary’s); taught senior Mathematics; and coached the first XIII rugby league team. He was on the committee of the Marist Brothers Senior and Junior Rugby League Clubs. Tom also facilitated the purchase and development of a holiday house at Wategoes Beach in Byron Bay for the Brothers. He played lawn bowls at the Lismore Heights Club.

In 1971, Tom was transferred to Sydney as Principal of Marist Brothers Auburn.

At the end of 1972, Tom made a major life-changing decision to leave religious life and the Marist Brothers.

In 1974, he married Terry (nee Therese Ginman). They had two children, Therese born in 1975 and Daniel born in 1976.

After leaving the Marist Brothers, Tom taught at St Clare’s High School in Taree for three years, before being employed as Deputy Principal of St Joseph’s Regional, Port Macquarie in 1976.

Father Donnelly and Tom had become acquainted while they were both in Lismore in the 1960s.  When they teamed up again in Port Macquarie they planned one of the greatest innovations in senior secondary education, a technical and vocational curriculum to complement the traditional senior academic HSC curriculum.

In 1979, Tom along with Sr Marie Boland, headed up the development of St Joseph’s Vocational College.  Tom was responsible for writing most of the courses and gaining approval from the Board of Studies for vocational courses offered. He, subsequently, became the Principal of the Vocational College Campus.  In this role, he pioneered a new approach to senior education that focused on helping senior students develop the skills needed to obtain an apprenticeship or other employment.

St Joseph’s Vocational College became an Australian Technical College and is now called Newman Senior Technical College.  The College is still a national leader in vocational education and training with an enrolment of over 400 students in Years 11 and 12. Its outstanding success is testament to the vision of Father Leo Donnelly and the hard work of Tom Quinn who brought the vision to reality.

In 1988, Tom stood aside from his leadership role at the Vocational College but continued to pursue his first love, teaching. He was regarded as one of the best teachers of all levels of Mathematics and also taught Computing, as digital technology became an essential skill for future employment.

Tom never really retired as a teacher… up until recent times he tutored mainly senior students in Mathematics.  Tom and Terry charged a very modest tutoring fee. For those who could not afford to pay anything, they gave their time and expertise for the joy of helping young people learn and succeed.

In Port Macquarie, Tom became known as ‘Uncle Tom’.  He was a career educator who preferred to teach rather than lead. He was passionate about helping young people achieve their potential and succeed in life.

He and Terry were a great partnership. During most of their time in Port Macquarie, they lived and worked together, helping each other and complementing each other as they worked so hard to establish the Vocational College and promote technical education for senior students.

Tom loves, among other things, were his wife Terry, his family, his faith, mathematics, computing, history, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, lawn bowls, the trots and his veggie garden.

In one lifetime, Tom had two great vocations, both worthy of the highest accolades. Tom can rest in peace knowing that he gave outstanding service to the Church and Catholic education as a Marist Brother and then as a layperson. He is remembered as a man of faith, a great teacher, educational leader, coach, mentor, friend and family man.