Phillip Harris Davis OAM (1924-2017)
It can seem a cliché to say that a teacher was loved by generations of students, but in Phil Davis’ case it was simply true. He taught for forty-six years, all but three at Newington, and was a member of the staff for fifty years, making him the third-longest serving staff member in the College’s history.
Phillip Harris Davis served as an Army Radar Technician in northern Australia in the Second World War. After being ‘de-mobbed’ he gained teaching qualifications and taught at Granville Technical College. He was appointed to teach Mathematics and Science at Newington in 1951.
In 1953, Phil instituted the Remedial Class (‘3R’), in which he taught all subjects except English until 1956. After this, he concentrated on Mathematics, teaching it to the Leaving Certificate, and then the HSC, level, His black jacket, embedded with chalk dust, became a part of Newington folklore. His approach to teaching endeared him to his students. ‘My style is that students really have to enjoy maths to learn it,’ he said in 2000. ‘You have to give a bit of humour to the lesson and you have to give students a sense of accomplishment.’ He was also thoroughly organised and invested much time in lesson planning.
Phil joined the College’s Cadet Corps as an officer in 1953 and served as its Commanding Officer from 1954 to 1963. He led a succession of innovations and raised standards in the unit to a level equal to the best in the country.
In the 1950s Phil coached Cricket and Rugby teams and later had charge of the Sports kit room, ensuring that equipment was well organised and cared for by the boys. He had many other roles, at different times serving as a Housemaster, Secretary of the Housemasters’ meetings, and Chairman of the Common Room, and organising Speech Nights, prizes, school photographs, detentions, transport and examinations. Less formally, he performed as part of a staff barbershop quartet and was known for his Al Jolson routine at many functions.
Phil gave long service to the Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of NSW (AAGPS), serving as Shooting Convenor, then as Honorary Treasurer for twenty years and subsequently as Vice-President.
Phil retired from teaching in 1993 and served in administrative roles until retiring at the end of 2000. In 2003 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to education, particularly through Newington College, and to the community. He was a member of the Honorary Common Room, while he had already been elected an Honorary Life Member of the Old Newingtonians’ Union in 1984.
Phil remained an active participant in College life, attending numerous reunions of past students and staff, 70 Club events and less formal get-togethers. From 2004 he served as a volunteer in the College Archives, where his orderly mind and unparalleled knowledge of Newington were invaluable. He was the Co-Patron of the Founders Society, the College’s bequest program. In 2014 he provided funds to establish the Phillip Davis OAM Mathematics Bursary Fund. The same year the Year 12 Common Room was named in his honour.
Phil Davis was a member of the Newington family for sixty-six years. We mourn his passing but will remember his life and service with love and gratitude.
Phillip Davis OAM Mathematics Bursary
In 1951 a young Phillip Davis first walked through the Millner Gates and realised there and then that he had “found his home”. 66 years later, through the Bursary he established, the Late Phil Davis’ legacy will continue to educate boys of Mathematical ability at Newington.
The Phillip Davis OAM Mathematics Bursary was established by Mr Davis in 2014 to celebrate his 90th Birthday and to emphasise to all that “you can’t take it with you”. As Co-Patron of the Founders Society – the College’s Bequest program, Phil was keen to promote the idea of leaving a legacy that will extend long after one’s lifetime.
And so, whilst we now mourn Phil’s passing, we can rejoice in his generous philanthropy that established this Bursary in his memory. But Phil knew his legacy alone would not be enough and was confident that those Old Boys he taught over the years would support his vision in his memory.
It is only through the generosity of an anonymous Old Boy, known only to Phil, that this Bursary was able to commence during his lifetime. But to guarantee the future of the Davis Bursary we need your support.
What better way to say “thank you” to Phil Davis for the start in life that he gave you, than to support his call to donate to his Bursary. Every donation, large or small; single or by regular giving; cash or by way of provision in your Will, is a personal gift to recognize a life of devotion to you and your fellow students. He was a Newington Man through and through.
You can donate directly via the College’s Community website or contact Director of Community and Development Rod Bosman (ON 1978) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9568 9540 if you would like to discuss your support.
Phil Davis was a Newington man through and through. We have lost a Living Legend but gained a legacy that neither time or man can erase.