Meet the Chairman

Meet Graham Kerr-Phillips, the newly elected chair of the Old Johannians Association (OJA). Graham is an advocate at the Johannesburg Bar and comes from a dynasty of Old Johannians – one of five brothers who matriculated at St John’s, his sons are also Old Johannians.

Tell us about your family’s long association with St John’s.

My four brothers – Clifford, Guy, Matthew and Timothy – and I, all matriculated at St John’s. We all had different experiences and rated the school differently. But one thing is certain, and I think I speak for them all when I say that our lives were enriched for having been educated at St John’s College.

My brother, Clifford, sent his two sons, Richard and Thomas, to St John’s. Sadly, they left for New Zealand before matriculating. My two sons, Edward and William, matriculated at St John’s. Edward has just completed his master’s in architecture, cum laude, at the University of the Witwatersrand and William is studying law at City U in Hong Kong and will be entering his final year. My wife, Frances, currently teaches at St John’s.

What does it mean to you to be a Johannian, and to be taking up the reins as the new OJA chairman?

Every member of my family who has been associated with St John’s would testify that they have tasted that indescribable essence of what it is to be associated with the St John’s community. We are all grateful for what was given to us. In my working life, I have tried to spread that essence in all my dealings with colleagues in the legal profession and with my clients. I know the same is true for my siblings, sons and nephews in their professional and personal lives.

Service is one of the essential parts of being a Johannian. As chairman, I hope to play a role in securing as many opportunities as possible for young men and women to share the same education my

extended family has received, so that they too may share with their communities the proceeds of the talents they learn, wherever they find themselves in the world. I hope to assist in making the facilities of the school and the association available to all Johannians, who perhaps need to revisit what it is to be an Old Johannian, or simply meet their friends and reminisce.

Why is an association such as the OJA important to a school?

A Through the OJA’s activities and functions, it brings Old Johannians back to the College. These are, and should be, times of fun and celebration. Old Boys and girls are the DNA of the College. As Old Johannians recharge their spirits in visiting the school, the students and teachers currently at St John’s gain inspiration from what past pupils have achieved. The OJA plays a crucial role in this process of renewal and enrichment.

How do you envisage the OJA evolving during your tenure? 

My committee and I wish to increase the OJA’s stamp on the development of the College. We see our role becoming increasingly important. I see our role as assisting the school administration in bringing the St John’s experience to the widest possible group of young men and women from all walks of life. South Africa needs the services of persons who hold the St John’s values. One of the avenues that we, as a committee, can follow is to assist the College administration to raise funds to reach out to this broader group of youth and, in so doing, spread “the St John’s way”.