How Bob Christian's Leadership Set the Course for HKIS Today
Mark Stephen Wallis
When you think about the story of HKIS, Bob Christian certainly ranks at the top of its list of leaders. As the first Head of School (Headmaster), Robert E. Christian arrived in August 1966 to organize a new school and set the course for advancing a community of diverse learners during nearly 60 years. Fast forward to April 2023 when we learned of Bob’s passing and many of the characteristics that defined his leadership remain visible.
– Bob and his wife Arleen had 5 children (Ann, David, Becky, Lois, and Julie) attending every division and exemplifying the connectedness of the HKIS family then and today.
– No one worked harder or put in longer hours than Bob. The first to arrive each day, staying late into the night, he worked tirelessly to promote progress at HKIS.
– As the recruiter for HKIS faculty and staff, Bob traveled extensively each year, developing a network of HKIS supporters while sourcing a dedicated and expanding staff.
– Bob was the first of many to establish and expand the HKIS physical
footprint, leading both building projects for the (now) Upper and Lower Primary schools.
– Everything about Bob, from promoting religious studies and leading chapel
services, to the wearing of his ever-present HKIS (Jerusalem) Cross spoke to his faith and
desire for others to personally know Christ.
– Leading with humility and collaboration, he knew every staff member and
most students by name. Predictably, his office was an afterthought, hidden off the stairway
between the third and fourth floors of the original school.
Mr. and Mrs. Christian (far right) seen here at the Junior-Senior prom with students Christy (McCaskill) Wendell '69, and Mike Swaine '69 (far left), who became two of the first recipients of the Bob Christian Alumnus of the Year award.
Bob was the most recognizable person on campus and everyone felt they knew him personally. Perhaps more importantly though, everyone knew Bob’s motivation – his enthusiasm for HKIS as a community of individuals working together with shared respect and a common goal of reaching their full potential. Although the HKIS Mission/Vision statements and the Student Learning Results (SLRs) were to come long after Bob’s years in Hong Kong, there is no doubt that the seeds were well-planted by him in those early years.
Mark Stephen Wallis graduated from HKIS and was a student during Bob Christian’s tenure at HKIS. Mark currently serves on the Board of Managers and his wife Lisa are the parents of two HKIS graduates.
A LETTER FROM BOB CHRISTIAN
Originally written for the 1970 edition of the Orientale Yearbook
To The Students At HKIS, In Particular To The Graduates Of The Class Of 1970:
What a small word! However, as we move into another decade, the 1970's, we find ourselves constantly confronted with "changes" that affect our lives.
Hong Kong too is involved in this. As one drives along the water-front or through the New Territories, looks down from the "Peak", meets the ever increasing numbers of vehicles on the road, or witnesses the higher costs of renting apartments here in the colony, evidences of change appear from all angles.
What about Change?
It can also present problems can't it? Sometimes it seems to take place only for its own sake. At other times, change is encouraged and demanded even when it is not possible to substitute something better for that which is to be changed.
Today's youth are also normally very much involved. Not only do the changes within the world have their profound effects upon young people, but youth itself is protesting, and is exercising an increasingly stronger voice in the affairs of community, nation and world.
What about us in Hong Kong? Most of us have travelled extensively and have come into contact with a variety of peoples and cultures. Yet, living in Hong Kong can present an inherent danger.
Isn't it just too easy here to live a "gracious life" sheltered from many of the conflicts and tensions so evident in the world today. If we succumb to this, it not only means that we are not taking responsible places in society but perhaps some day we may be in for a rude awakening when the full impact of various changes and tensions bear down upon us.
More questions come to mind. Are there areas where change does not or should not take place?
Let's look at the needs of man, or his values in life. While technology, the explosions of knowledge and of population, and constant advance in mass communication and transportation all have their tremendous effect on people, don't basic needs remain quite constant? Such things as the desire for security, having a satisfying outlet for time and energies, the need to live in a peaceful and cooperative relationship with one's fellow man, and the struggle to answer the questions of life and of death?
Furthermore, even with a changing world are there not some "absolutes" in values? I'm thinking of "the preciousness of life", "the loyalty to one's country", "the responsibility of being a contributing citizen of the world", "the preservation and upbuilding of family life", and "the need of the individual to develop religious convictions from which to live".
Change? Yes…as necessary…and let's be involved in that change, but always with our feet on the ground, working within a framework of values that the experience of history and religion can support.
With all of the forces in the world that today are both encouraging and resisting change, I am reminded of the words found in Malachi 3, verse 6: "I the Lord do not change". Here is a source of strength and hope for us. God never changes, whether it be in His love to man, or in His ability to affect the lives of man and the conditions of the world.
May I extend my congratulations to the class of 1970. I trust that you will always be a part of the "growing edge" that must work within society for its change and its improvement. We'll be anxious to hear from you in the future.
God bless you.
Robert E. Christian - Headmaster