Brian Gregory McKee
July 2, 1930 – May 24, 2008
Brian McKee and Pat Hoult both died on May 24 2008. History will remember them as among those who saved New Zealand Catholic education and made it what it is today.
When Brian McKee first became involved, Catholic education was growing out of control due to the demands of the post-war baby boom. The church’s resources were stretched beyond their limits. This was nowhere more evident than in growing suburbs like Wainuiomata where Brian and his wife Teresa were raising their four children.
Brian made his expertise in accounting available to this young parish. He was able to find resources by which the parish was able to establish two schools, staffed originally by the Sisters of Jesus and Mary. These schools have now been amalgamated and named after the founder of the order, St Claudine Thévenet.
The Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Board snapped him up. Brian’s preparation for meetings was meticulous. At his first board meeting he presented a well worked paper showing that Catholic schools could not survive unless parishes increased their contributions. His proposal was immediately accepted by all parish priests. It was not long before he became chairman of the board.
When, in 1973, Hon Phil Amos, Minister of Education in the newly elected Labour Government, invited the Bishops Conference to nominate members to attend a conference on State Aid to Private Schools, Brian was an obvious choice. At that conference integration first came up for serious consideration. Brian, with others and with the Ministry of Education, worked tirelessly over the next two years putting detail on to a vague initial idea. ‘Tirelessly’ is the right word. It was nothing for Brian to work on until the early hours if there was an important meeting next evening. His wife Teresa would sometimes be getting up when he returned home. And then he had to get ready to go to work at his paid employment.
Once integration became law, he turned his abilities to Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt, where his daughter was a student. As chair of its Board of Governors and later of its Board of Proprietors he steered the college through the thickets of the early integration days and the redevelopment of the college buildings.
Whatever Brian took on he did superbly well. This applies equally to his coaching of and support for rugby teams for St Bernard’s College, where his sons attended, and Hutt Valley Marist.
His work for the church earned him a papal knighthood.
The last years of Brian’s life were a stark contrast to these frenetic activities. He suffered from a form of neuro-muscular disease which gradually incapacitated him until he could do nothing for himself.
Throughout Brian remained mentally active and extraordinarily cheerful.
Brian is survived by his wife, Teresa, his four children and numerous grandchildren.
Edward Patrick (Pat) Hoult
January 2, 1923 – May 24, 2008
Pat Hoult was educated at St Patrick’s College, Wellington. He served in the Royal NZ Air Force during the Second World War. After the war be took up teaching and became an inspector of schools in the Wanganui Education Board.
By the 1970s Catholic schools were employing more and more lay teachers and the possibility of Catholic schools integrating with the state system was being openly discussed. The bishops, therefore, recognised the need for more professional administration of the Catholic system. Pat was appointed the first executive director of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office. In fact, he was the office. He was given a secretary, a clean desk, an empty filing cabinet and told to get on with it with what help he could find.
The Integration Act was clear. It provided that Catholic Schools would continue to provide ‘Education with a Special Character’ and that Special Character had to be Catholic. However, there were myriad regulations, by-laws and practices built up over a century to administer the secular state system. Pat had to work through all of these with his counterparts in the Ministry of Education, accepting what could be accepted and changing what could not so that Catholic schools could continue to do what they were founded to do, namely, bring Catholic education to Catholic children.
Furthermore, every Catholic school had to be examined to ensure that its buildings were safe and well maintained. Largely they had not been well looked after due to shortage of funds. Integration would be a costly affair. Pat was able to persuade the government to grant subsidised loans help cover the cost of bringing the schools to a satisfactory state and when the interest on the loans could no longer be sustained, to grant suspensory loans.
Despite pressure from diocesan financial advisers who were alarmed at rising costs, Pat advised the bishops not to agree to integrate any school until the status of all teachers had been sorted out. The teachers, lay and religious, had been appointed under entirely different rules from the ones that would govern them under integration. In justice, the bishops had to ensure that every teacher, lay and religious, ended up in their rightful place on the state’s salary and promotions ladder.
Pat was totally committed to the church and to Catholic education. Many wondered how he stood up to the pressure. He explained it once. When he had a decision to make which, if it went the wrong way could be disastrous or even dispel the end of Catholic education, and this was not unusual, he would try to think out all the options, and take the best advice he could find. Then he would turn to the Holy Spirit and say ‘This is the way I think we, you and me, should go. If it all goes wrong, you are then as much to blame as I am.’ That Catholic Education is alive and well today proves that it worked.
Pat’s wife, Joy, predeceased him as did, Rosalie, one of his children. He is survived by his remaining eight children.
The measure of greatness of anyone is whether they left the world a better place than it was when they were born. Both Brian and Pat were instrumental in the integration of Catholic schools, described as the most massive change in New Zealand’s national education in its first 100 years. Without them, it is doubtful whether Catholic education would exist today.
Pictures: Top Brian McKee
The team that negotiated Catholic school integration 1973–1975: Philip Fowler, Education Boards, Gunther Warner PPTA, John O’Neill SM Catholic Schools, Julia McKay secretary, Pat Hoult Catholic Schools, Ned Dobbs director general, Department of Education, Ted Simmons NZEI, John Jolliff Department of Education. Absent: Des Dalgety.