|25 Feb 2022|
Kenneth McMurtrie came to Loreto Normanhurst as the Head of TAS in January 1995, then became the first Director of IT in June 1999 and eventually Deputy of Loreto Normanhurst in January 2008 before retiring in June 2015.
He was the most generous, felicitous Loreto man. He saw the world through rose-coloured glasses and brought humour to every meeting. When delivering his most impressive yearly speech on Work Health and Safety and the wearing of appropriate footwear, he would show slides of what was acceptable and loved to ask the women to add Kumpfs to their wardrobe as this would fit the bill. The following year, when Ken got up to concede that he didn’t have shares in Kumpfs and that maybe he should not have recommended these, he proceeded to show staff how we shouldn’t dress, rolling up his shirt sleeve to reveal a fabric tattoo sleeve. For those in the back it looked real enough, and the giggles and gasps were audible. Ken kept going through that presentation as if there was nothing wrong.
Ken loved practical jokes, especially on April Fool’s Day. One year, he informed the whole school that a new software program was to be delivered wirelessly to every computer in the school at a certain time. All students and staff were instructed to close their laptops at said time and to place their hands on the top of their computer. If they could feel the vibrations then this was a sign that the new software had been delivered. Ken laughed loudly as many students and staff reported back that they could not feel the vibrations!
Ken was always up for a new challenge and when leading the TAS Faculty he decided that he would enjoy teaching the food unit within Technology. Ken was known for the late submission of food orders for the practical classes. We would often laugh about the times Ken would be seen racing back into the school loaded with groceries for his class, having ducked out to the supermarket to shop for the lesson. When Ken retired from Loreto Normanhurst, he did some casual teaching and would often share images of the muffins he had proudly prepared with his classes.
Ken was in attendance at all school events, often with his wife Pat as support. Ken was regularly Master of Ceremonies and spoke eloquently in this role. He could chat to anyone and work a room to make sure everyone felt included and welcome.
At Music Festival – Ken wanted everyone to be involved so he instigated the first whole school dance-off at our whole day rehearsal. At the end of a very long day rehearsal, he would acknowledge the work of all staff and students by playing a surprise song and encouraging everyone in the room to get up and dance! That tradition continues to this day!
When Barbara Watkins was Principal and Ken Deputy Principal, in the amazing era when Barbie and Ken led Loreto Normanhurst, they were truly a dynamic duo and forged a wonderful partnership. We always knew when Barbara wasn’t onsite - “I’m a Barbie Girl’ would be played for at least one bell. In his role as Deputy Principal, Ken was keen to explore overseas opportunities for the students. He was integral in ensuring the San Francisco Exchange Program commenced for Year 10 students in 2009 and that Music, Drama and Visual Arts students were able to participate in European Performance Tours and the New York Immersion Programs.
Ken had a story for every occasion. He was well travelled, rode an impressive motorbike – he even turned up to one Boarder event on his bike and in leathers in the middle of dinner, earning a lot of respect from the girls! Ken was well read, cared deeply for the Loreto values and the IBVM and always ensured that the school values were at the heart of all his work. His own daughters, Anna (’04) and Alice (’07) both attended Loreto Normanhurst in Aston House.
Ken was always generous with his time. He listened to the concerns of the students, parents and staff, and of course the neighbours. But he always made sure you walked out feeling heard. He was firm but gentle – he would tell you if you were in the wrong but never make you feel bad. He was respectful as a leader. Ken often took time in his day to check in with his staff, to provide encouragement and life advice that still resonates with staff today. Ken would often be heard saying, “it will be alright,” “it will happen,” or “the girls will make it work.”
We will fondly remember Ken leading the students from the private train to Sydney Olympic Park for a Sports Carnival or Music Festival, walking with 900 girls following behind him with his tweed cap on.
Kate Kovacs, Jenelle Minto, Chris Woods, Bernadette O'Dwyer
As a proud Woy Woy boy, Ken and I had a natural connection and I happen to know through work many of his family members.
He would often remind my daughters that he was at the station as a youth when the first electrified train went through Woy Woy – and tell them how times had changed in a blink.
I was very appreciative of his role in the school when my girls arrived; not only was he capable of a firm but gentle persuasion toward excellent behaviour in the girls, but he managed to achieve it whilst emanating joy for life. His contributions to the choice of song for the bell and many Dad jokes were often the cause of much humour and discussion in our household.
His spirit continued in the school after he retired when breaking the “Barb and Ken” duo.
I expect there are many work colleagues and broader school community who remember him fondly. Our family offer our thoughts and prayers to them, Ken’s family and to the Loreto community.
Paul Tonkin, former parent – father of Anna (’11), Erin (’15) and Philippa (’16).
I have very fond memories of ‘Mr McMurtrie’ and the perpetual twinkle in his eye – his gentle humour, down-to-earth nature and kind leadership. He was certainly much adored by us as students, and we certainly felt cared for by him. He delighted in making us laugh with his emails or assembly dismissals, and always made it known to us that the school was invested in providing us a multitude of opportunities to learn and be ourselves - even a handball tournament initiated under his oversight! The McMurtrie Maccas Run was a sought-after auction item every year at our Loreto Day raffle.
I remember Mr McMurtrie's parting words as he retired from the position of Deputy Principal, about how he always enjoyed shaking the hands of the nervous young men accompanying us to our Year 10 formals, and about how he was struck that they were always called 'Lachlan' or 'Josh'! He concluded by urging us to always proudly take our place at the proverbial table beside the Lachlans and Joshes, to speak our minds, to unashamedly be ourselves, and to be confident that our Loreto education stood us in good stead to forge our unique path.
Mr McMurtrie was a generous, cheerful Loreto man. I add these words and memories knowing well that many other members of our community have similar ones of their own.
Sophie Cullen ('15)
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