Dr William McKeith AM

Dr William McKeith AM 1986 - 2010

It was PLC Sydney’s eighth Principal, Dr William McKeith, who led the College into its second century. His tenure was characterised by growth: increased educational and co-curricular offerings, more opportunities for educational enrichment beyond the classroom, and new buildings.

William Taylor McKeith (b.1951) was born in Wollongong, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He went to Knox Grammar School, where he was Vice-Captain. He received his BA and DipEd from Macquarie University, his MA from the University of Sydney and his MBA (Hons) and EdD from the University of Leicester, UK. In 2008 his contribution to educational advancement was recognised when he received the order of Member of Australia (AM).

Before coming to PLC Sydney Dr McKeith taught at Newington College and at Chevalier College in Bowral and held a senior administrative position with the Independent Teachers’ Association. 

Dr McKeith believed that the roots of a school’s reputation were “in the classroom, the essence of which is the quality of interaction between teacher and student”.1 He sought to increase both the quality and quantity of classroom experiences. The Transition program, catering to students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, was introduced, as was a Branxton Reception class, designed for four-year-olds. The Senior School curriculum added Studies of Religion, Legal Studies, Food Technology, and Business Studies, while the number of foreign languages offered increased, especially in the Junior School. Computing classes, interactive whiteboards and laptops became the norm. The Extension Centre was established to offer enrichment programs for gifted and talented pupils as well as tutoring for those who needed some extra help.

Dr McKeith urged the PLC community to live according to our mission statement, saying that “we shall be helped enormously if we ‘hold fast that which is good’, the ‘good’ being the standards and values of civilised society and of our Christian heritage”. 2 To this end a full-time Chaplain was appointed and subsequently a chaplaincy team was formed. Service learning opportunities were developed at kindergartens in East Timor and at an orphanage in Vietnam. Exchange programs with sister schools in countries around the world enabled pupils to learn in new environments and explore other cultures while being ambassadors for PLC Sydney and its beliefs.

Assisting in the introduction and development of some of these initiatives was the PLC Sydney Foundation, founded in 1987 to provide financial support for the on-going provision of a Christian education and to safeguard the financial independence of the College.

When Dr McKeith became Principal in 1986 the enrolment was 715 (3) ; when he retired 25 years later, in 2010, the figure stood at 1252. 4 Providing facilities for more students and for a wider range of curriculum offerings required both new buildings and renovation and extension of others. New structures included Thompson Hall, E. Neil McQueen Block, Lindley Evans Music Centre, Macindoe Library, Evandale, Freda Whitlam School of Science, The Croydon Centre for Art, Design and Technology, J.D. Oates Aquatic Centre, Performing Arts Centre, and Lyons House. Dr McKeith’s last official act as Principal was to open the re-developed and extended Macindoe Research Centre Centre.

Like those before him, Dr McKeith built on the legacy of previous Principals, initiated improvements, and left a better College for the next Principal.

  • The W.T. McKeith Arts Centre, opened in 2006 as the Performing Arts Centre, honours the College’s eighth Principal.
    Robert Hannaford (b.1944) first worked as a political cartoonist for the Adelaide Advertiser before taking up painting full-time in 1970. The National Portrait Gallery owns six of his portraits and his other works include likenesses of Dame Joan Sutherland, Sir Donald Bradman, Paul Keating and Bob Hawke. He has been an Archibald Prize finalist.

1 Series 43 Principals, Dr William McKeith, Box 408, Folder 6, “Private schools must be free to have character”, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 2003, p. 15.
2 Series 43 Principals, Dr William McKeith, Box 408, Folder 5, Principal’s Address, Chairman’s Dinner, 1997.
3 Series 1 College Council & Committees, Minutes of College Council, 17 February 1986.
4 Series 1 College Council & Committees, Minutes of College Council, 22 November 2010, Principal’s Report to Council, p. 4.

 

dr-william-mckeith

Dr William McKeith
Portrait by Robert Hannaford, 1997