Retirement celebrations at St Richard's for Anthony Campbell OBE

ANTHONY CAMPBELL, OBE a man who has been described as a Bexhill "Icon" has retired from his post as Principal of St Richard's Catholic College.

To commemorate his departure, from a post which he has held for 20 years, guests were invited to afternoon and evening of celebrations on Saturday, held in a specially-erected marquee in the college grounds.

The proceedings opened with a Celebration of Service - where a range of uplifting hymns were sung and prayers of thanks were said, ending with a traditional Irish Blessing.

Entertainment was provided by talented St Richard's students, some of whom performed traditional Irish dancing, whilst others played a range of orchestral instruments or sang solos.

There then followed speeches and presentations of gifts from distinguished guests including the college chair of Governors, Peter Champion and Doreen Cronin - who will be temporarily taking over from Mr Campbell as Acting Principal in the new academic year.

Praising Mr Campbell's leadership and contribution to the college and the community, Doreen Cronin said:

"He has always been a very hands-on head and would never ask anyone to do anything that he wouldn't do himself - he has been an outstanding leader of this community."

Of his excellent teaching methods she said: "He always treated every student who came to the college as people first, learners second.

"He provided a safe, secure and happy environment as he believed it's only in that environment that they can grow. He does not accept second-best and inspired the students through his charisma and sense of fun - making them believe they can do anything.

"He has a strong sense of service and faith. And although he likes to say that he is just a simple Irishman, that 'simple Irishman' has laid firm foundations and made this school great."

She added: "His favourite word is 'community' guided by the Gospel. He's been our rock and our protector and has been a fantastic father figure to thousands."

Mr Campbell began his retirement speech, but was initially too overcome with emotion to continue.

He thanked everyone for all the comments made and said: "I wanted to go quietly! There are so many people that I want to thank. I always felt that I had the ability to serve and I was very lucky to have my family with me. When I came to St Richard's I came to a very friendly environment and the teachers have all been very close to me during my time here, giving tremendous dedication and loyalty to me and the children of St Richard's."

He thanked his family for their support, the school Governors and all students past and presentfor their kindness.

He praised all the politicians and clergy for their "tremendous work" on the "every child matters" policy which he helped pioneer with Mike Conn and the Bexhill Consortium, leading the way at Bexhill High School with the Pathways Unit.

He congratulated Doreen Cronin on being the first female head of St Richard's and ended his speech by saying: "Having leadership is one of the best jobs in the world, thank you all for helping me to serve and to make a difference."

Retirement gifts presented to Mr Campbell in recognition for his outstanding service to the college included a hand-painted Icon blessing holding a book of gospels, painted on wood and imported from Russia, a complete set of golf clubs presented by the PTFA and from the staff and pupils a voucher for two to the Ryder Cup.

After cutting his retirement cake Mr Campbell guests were invited to enjoy the buffet.