US$20k gift to help make Samoa’s Chanel College ‘Great Again’
Mr Robert Fallon, who taught at Chanel between 1970 and 1973, is an international banker and now CEO for biotechnology company Phosplatin Therapeutics, was in Samoa last week to take part in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Peace Corps services in the country.
While in Samoa, he was able to personally commit his monetary gift at a special meeting at the Mulivai complex. As with givings of this nature, there was a last minute twist.
Originally, Robert’s donation was ear-marked for a fund to renovate the roof of the college’s Samoan Fale. But the intervention of former Chanel Head Prefect, Aleki Silao and Monsignor Etuale Etuale, the Chair for the committee, convinced Mr Fallon that the Primary School project is the more urgent and immediate priority. With the roof renovations taking a longer route to completion through a phased approach.
“You know, we will spend money to give us a nice new roof and better class facilities underneath the Fale Samoa but it may not, so much, improve the education. I think it is better to invest in the Maurista property and build the Primary School,” he said.
Archbishop Mata’eliga thanked Mr Fallon for his contribution to Chanel.
“Thank you Bob for your interest and commitment to Chanel. Not only when you were a teacher but now a generous donation to help us financially. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before opening this school.”
The Primary School project, which will be built at the Marista property at Moamoa, is a core part of a Chanel Old Boys strategy aimed at resurrecting the plummeting academic standards and profile of the college back to its former glory.
According to Monsignor Etuale, the primary school’s principal goal is to raise the academic standard of students who will then feed the college and eventually resurrect its academic baseline. Which means that, operationally, the set-up will be based around a private school template in order to attract and fund quality teachers, especially those with Mathematics and Science majors as the two subjects have been identified to align the primary to college curriculum. Also prioritized is the inclusion of Christian doctrine into the syllabus.
According to the committee, everything going well, the primary school could be operational by as early as 2018.
“At the moment, we feel that the low-end students from Year-8, the ones who cannot get into other colleges end up coming to Chanel as their last resort,” said committee member Tiufea Rudolf Meredith.
“That is one of the main factors causing the problem at the college – the large number of low quality students in our ‘intake’.
He pointed out, “In our time, the reputation of Chanel was very high. It was as an elite boarding school where parents both here in Samoa and American Samoa saw Chanel as one of the marquee schools for their children to aim for. But those days are well gone. No one is talking about Chanel like that anymore.”
In its heyday, Chanel produced its fair share of Samoan leaders in their own right such as Archbishop Mata’eliga, Monsignor Etuale Etuale, Minister of Private Enterprise Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell, Minister for Finance Sili Epa Tuioti, while from American Samoa came Taufete’e John Jr. Faumuina, a pioneer student; Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, Dr. Jerome Amoa, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, Vaitoa Hans Langkilde, and many more.
It is also worthy to note that the first flag hoisted at Mulinu’u was given to Fr B.F. Doherty, the founding Rector of the College, and an early sign of the contribution by Chanel as Samoa emerged on the international stage as the first Pacific nation to gain independence.
It is this proud history that Tiufea Rudolf Meredith said drove “our committee to stop the talk, talk, talk and start walking to build the primary school, and commit to the plan to hire qualified teachers. It’s the only way to produce quality students who will carry that quality and feed it through the college. It’s a sure way to rebuild Chanel’s academic reputation and regain our elite standing in Samoa and American Samoa.”
He added, “And we gratefully acknowledge the support of his Grace, the Archbishop, for granting us the use of the Maurista school, the land and existing buildings in Moamoa to start the school.”
Tiufea also revealed the one condition the Archbishop’s consent demanded.
“To renovate an existing building there to shift the current Divine Mercy homeless people to. Once that’s done, we can then use the past Marista buildings for the Primary School.”
Tiufea who is in charge of the renovations [at his own expense] for the new home for the homeless completed the task earlier this week. They will now move to “phase two of the project” which is to start the renovations to turn the Marista buildings to the Primary School. A construction endeavour estimated to cost over SAT$100,000.
Archbishop Mata’eliga also expanded on Mr Meredith’s comments.
“If we really want to upgrade Chanel College to what it was before when it was a boarding school, and Rudolf used the word elite, and that was the college Chanel was – not only in education but also in the form of discipline, and the holistic formation of students – and we are witness to that.
“It is going to take a lot of planning and groundwork but I think it’s going to be a very interesting and worthwhile project for our students going to Chanel and our feeder school so we are very grateful to you, as well as Mr John Ryan and others involved. Hopefully the Peace Corps will be able to help [with the provision of teachers], that would be wonderful.”
Mr Fallon re-emphasized his support saying, “You have my commitment. I will do my part. What we’re doing has longer term benefits for education than having a new roof on the Fale Samoa.
“I’ll also try to initiate enough dialogue with the Peace Corps, with Aleki as our focal point, to table your request for the Peace Corps to look at appointing teachers with science, mathematics and technical education to Chanel.”
Mr Fallon’s US$20,000 gift is being complemented by contributions from various Chanel Old Boys initiatives. Already, they have raised SAT$20,000 to match Mr Fallon’s US contribution, which was one of the challenges Mr Fallon had asked for when the Primary School project was first floated to him by Aleki.
“The golfers are very active. They have formed a Trust account for Chanel with the agreement of the steering committee,” updated Aleki Silao.
“We also have an upcoming golf tournament in September in which American Samoa will join us. The plan is that the profits will go into the pool for the primary school project.
“We are hoping that our New Zealand and Australian chapters will come on board and support this project.”
Mr Fallon believes past Chanel students and supporters will be eager to support as the message driving the project “to reinvigorate the school and direct more capable students to the College” will resonate with them.
Seeing is believing he added, “Once people see the money in the account and starts to build up then it’s easier to raise the balance of the funds from the Old boys overseas and the golfers too. I think it is very important to brand this as a Chanel Old Boys initiative so everybody can take pride in it.”
His monetary gift helps drive positive things to making Chanel ‘great again’. Just as his teaching, coaching and musical talents left an indelible imprint on students and Samoan society 48 years ago.
It is also noteworthy this is not the first time Mr Fallon has donated money to worthy causes. In 2013, as one of Ohio University’s Fellows he and colleagues donated US$365,000 for the Fellow program’s revitalization as part of the university’s The Promise Lives Campaign.
CHANEL COLLEGE INFORMATION
Adapted from Fr Brian O’Connell’s post on Chanel’s 50th anniversary in 2012.
The Chanel College was founded in 1962 by the Marist Fathers with the motto: “Taofi Mau le Faatuatua” translated “Hold Steadfast to the Faith”.
Originally it was a boys-only boarding school, with special permission for non-boarders. The first principal was Father Bernard Doherty. The first Head Prefect, Lino Samoa.
The early days of the college were more characterized by hard physical work on a temporary site where the early classes were held near the building site.
Plantations were planted from day one to support the college and feed the students all of whom were boarders. The old Vanila school at Moamoa provided an early kitchen that later reverted to a primary boarding school which was a small feeder school for the College.
Fundraising was a constant necessity and occasionally money ran out. On 5 October 1962 all the workers were sent home. A successful fund-raising brought them back. Again in 1964, the rector’s diary recorded on 28/2 “all funds exhausted”.
Along with Fr Doherty, Fr Conrad Bryant came from New Zealand to start the College. He stayed until 1965 when he contracted filariasis and was appointed to a school in New Zealand. Fr Kevin Mears arrived in 1963 for a long stay.
In 1965 the first lay teacher Bill Sharp-Dunn arrived for a long tenure, gifted in music and willing to teach anything if requested.
In 1970, Robert Fallon started teaching Maths at the college.
By 1975 the decision was made to end the boarding school. The farm was given back to the diocese to manage and Chanel became a day-school for boys.
The second wave of teachers were led by Fr Rod Milne (rector 1974-5) and Stuart O’Connell, the third rector, as the day school grew and a 6th form was shared with other catholic secondary schools in the region. Frs Denis O’Hagan and Kevin Head led the College in the 1980s until the first local Marists were ready to step up.
Fr Falani Terry was the first Samoan Rector as well as the first old boy rector. He was followed by Fr JP Visesio.
In 1992, the decision was made to accept girl students.
The needs of the diocese meant that the College had come full circle from a boys-only boarding school in 1962 to a fully equipped co-educational College after forty years.