Going GREYT! 1 Peter 4:10

In Going GREYT! we feature stories of some of our ‘more experienced’ people within the LCANZ, who have been called to make a positive contribution in their retirement. We pray their examples of service will be an inspiration and encouragement to us all as we look to be Christ’s hands and feet wherever we are.

by Helen Brinkman

Retired Queensland educator Fred Stolz is penning his life story, which he’s called A Fortunate Life.

‘I don’t know why God has blessed me as he has, but I am very thankful’, says 87-year-old Fred as he reflects on his 54 years of service to education in Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The farmer’s son from Henty in southwestern New South Wales was always going to be a teacher.

And he’s now been recognised in the 2023 Australia Day Honours List for his service to education. This includes serving as foundation headmaster of Grace Lutheran College, Rothwell, Queensland, and inaugural principal of Balob Teachers College in PNG.

Fred’s learning journey began in a one-teacher school in country NSW during World War II.

By age 11 he was a boarder at Albury High School hostel, riding the diesel-powered rail motor train home on weekends.

And as the youngest high school graduate at 16 years, the headmaster said Fred was too young for university. However, he won a teaching scholarship that couldn’t be deferred, so off he went to the University of Sydney.

After completing his degree and a stint of national service, 20-year-old Fred won his first teaching post, back at Albury High School.

This was followed by four more teaching posts in public high schools across NSW. At age 21, Fred met his future wife Lois at the Lutheran youth group in Gilgandra, where he was teaching science at the local high school. Marriage followed in 1961.

After nine years teaching In NSW schools, a seed sowed during a childhood of mission festivals at church bore fruit. He became the inaugural principal of the new Balob Teachers College in Lae, at the foot of the PNG Highlands.

The 1965 mission posting meant flying the family, which then included two-year-old daughter Theresa and 10-month-old son Michael, in a propellor-powered DC-6B plane to Port Moresby, then Lae. Fred was one of eight staff teaching 99 students at what has become one of the largest primary teacher training institutions in PNG.

By the time he left 15 years later, the teaching college had 300 students undertaking a two-year course. Now, more than 1,100 students are currently undertaking a three-year primary school teaching course at Balob. The college’s motto ‘to serve’, is very close to Fred’s heart.

Fred says the teaching roles graduating teachers often go into involve a strong sense of service to the community. ‘The primary schools are isolated, so if you are serving there, you are really serving’, he says. ‘And for New Guineans to move away from their language group is not easy, so you need to have a true sense of service.’

He was named an Officer of the Order of Logohu (Bird of Paradise) by the PNG Government in December 2018, for his work at Balob, and his continued service to the Lutheran church.

His church service has included roles on the Queensland District’s Finance Council, Lutheran Education Queensland’s finance and development committee and committees of the Association of Independent Schools of Queensland.

Establishing Grace Lutheran College, Rothwell, on Brisbane’s north coast is what brought Fred and his family back to Australia in late 1979. From 1980, he oversaw its growth from 55 students on a new campus, to more than 1500 students over two campuses. The second campus at Caboolture opened in 2008.

That spirit of service has resonated with Fred throughout his life.

‘Talk is cheap, walking the talk is what you have to do’, he says.

Up until two years before he retired from Grace in 2009, Fred did just that, teaching a maths class each year. ‘I felt as principal I should set an example’, he recalls. When all the teachers were marking papers and writing reports, he was too.

After such a stimulating career, it required a concerted effort for Fred to adjust to retirement.

‘Teachers are a very intelligent group of people, so it’s always very interesting to be with them. After 54 years I knew it would be a jolt’, he says. ‘We bought a motorhome and spent 20 weeks travelling around Australia.’

Fred then started studying German at the University of the Third Age. Thirteen years into retirement, he is still an active member of Redcliffe Lutheran Church and his local Rotary club. He volunteers with the church’s Bayside Community Care, handing out food parcels. You’ll also find him selling raffle tickets or sizzling sausages at the local Bunnings for the Rotary club.

Fred paid tribute to the teachers he’s worked with in establishing both colleges. He also remains proud of the students and has never missed Grace Lutheran College’s annual end-of-year speech night. ‘They are all making good contributions to society and that’s a good result.’

Fred is a great advocate for Lutheran schools. ‘Australia is a very secular society, and we do need to show education has a spiritual side as well’, he says. ‘It’s one of the things that the Lutheran Church does very well.’

A passion for education continues in his family. Three of his 16 grandchildren are teachers, including one who has just become a high school teacher on Thursday Island in North Queensland.

Helen Brinkman is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world. Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor lisa.mcintosh@lca.org.au

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