In 1887 Mother Gonzaga Barry wrote, “Leave after you a something on which others may build, and so rise higher still.” The second part of this quotation is often left out, and yet it seems to epitomise the visionary nature of both Gonzaga Barry and another well-formed and forward-thinking leader in our Loreto story, Dr Susan Stevens.
In December this year, Susan will conclude her almost twenty-year term as Principal of Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak. Starting in 1998 as Deputy Principal- Pastoral Care, she was appointed Principal in June 2002 and has carried out this role with exemplary dedication, a commitment to excellence, unceasing drive and a sense of true felicity every day since.
Susan led Loreto Toorak through an era of physical growth and expansion for the school, whilst strategically planning to ensure equality of access for families into the future. She strived for quality in every aspect of a holistic education for girls and attended to the pastoral care of her students and their families with sensitivity and nuance in an increasingly complex world. She mentored a highly professional staff, strengthened a connected international alumnae network, and ensured that a sense of deeply inculcated Loreto values is as equal a priority in her graduates as any other of their outstanding achievements. Susan’s belief in the importance of a sense of justice as core to the DNA of her students led to her pioneering vision for the Year 11 Vietnam Pilgrimage. For over 17 years, the Pilgrimage has ensured an annual transformative immersion experience for hundreds of staff and students and built an enduring connection with the mission of Loreto Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City.
Susan’s love for the Loreto Sisters, her connection with the story of Mary Ward and her clear understanding of and commitment to the educational philosophy, underlying values and strong sense of both tradition and future possibilities for Loreto worldwide was evident from her earliest association with the network. Her contribution to its growth has been significant. Susan was a founding member of the Loreto Schools Australia Committee (LSAC) in 2000 and held the role of Chair from 2005-2011. Under her leadership in 2009, LSAC led many of the wonderful celebrations across our Australian Loreto schools, marking 400 years of Mary Ward/Loreto education. The commissioning of the Mary Ward sculpture for each school, coordinating the inaugural Mary Ward Connect Program, launching the commemorative hymn written by Sr Deirdre Browne IBVM and other significant LSAC projects took place under Susan’s stewardship.
Susan has been an integral member of the Loreto Principal’s Forum, sharing wise counsel, demonstrating firm decision making, sharing a sparkling sense of collegiality, and nurturing strong relationships with her Principal colleagues and their schools over 20 years. She has attended Loreto education conferences internationally and around Australia, contributing in numerous ways to building a common educational richness across our network. Additionally, Susan has served on the Board of Mary Ward International Australia, contributed to the work of the Loreto Justice Network, and attended numerous Province Congregations and countless other gatherings over many years.
Throughout her time at Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak, Susan formed strong bonds of friendship with many Loreto Sisters. Her admiration and respect for the heritage of the Sisters broad educational foundation is evident in her tireless work and personal commitment. Susan’s deep faith and love of the Institute are profound and notable dimensions of her leadership. She has truly exemplified the aim of Gonzaga Barry to raise our whole network higher still, and she has walked confidently with her hand outstretched towards Mary Ward’s. We bid her farewell and fare-forward with sincere gratitude and deep affection.