7th Annual Jarvis Lecture: Sir Eric Anderson

The School welcomed Sir Eric Anderson, Provost of Eton College from 2001 to 2009, to give the 7th annual F. Washington Jarvis International Fund lecture in Hall on October 14.

A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, Sir William “Eric” Kinloch Anderson earned degrees at the University of St. Andrews and Oxford before entering the teaching profession that included positions at Fettes College (Edinburgh), and Gordonstoun School. He served as headmaster of three renowned English Schools—Abingdon, Shrewsbury, and Eton—and then as Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford. From 1980-1994 he was Head Master at Eton, and was appointed Provost by Her Majesty the Queen in 2000. Upon his retirement in 2009, he was elected as one of six Honorary Fellows of Eton’s Governing Body. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Knight of the Order of the Thistle, invested as one of only 16 members of this distinguished royal company by HRH Queen Elizabeth in 2002. In his roles as teacher, housemaster, and headmaster, Sir Eric Anderson has had charge over the likes of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles, and Prime Minister David Cameron.

In his address, Sir Eric Anderson offered vignettes from the lives of six people he’d come to know over the course of his career that define character and bravery in the face of adversity. Among these acquaintances were Norman Heatley, a key member of the team of Oxford scientists who developed penicillin; a British woman who aided the French Resistance by parachuting in, under cover of darkness, supplies and explosives; Alex Stobbs, an Eton boy with cystic fibrosis and a musical talent that he pursued to great success despite his desperate illness; and Kurt Hahn, headmaster at the Salem School in Germany who criticized Hitler publically and called on his students to choose between Hitler and Salem. Hahn was permitted to emigrate to Britain after a short incarceration and founded the Gordonstoun School in Scotland, where he developed his philosophy of education. Four important things in a good school, he explained decades later to Sir Eric, are fitness training (you never know when you’ll need it), challenging expeditions, rescue experience (“an equivalent to war”), and international understanding. The motto Hahn gave to Gordonstoun is plus est en vous (“more is in you”) to which current Gordonstoun students often add, “…than you think.”

Special guests included Jack Hennessy ’54 and his wife Margarita, who established the Fund; Headmaster Emeritus Tony Jarvis, in whose honor it was established; and parents of boys past and current who have directly benefited from the Fund through the international travel it supports. A spirited rendition of The Eton Boating Song—a “surprise” for Sir Eric—followed the address, accompanied on the piano by Adrian Silver of Class I. Faculty and guests were invited to a reception in the Jarvis Refectory at the conclusion of the Hall.

Sir Eric Anderson has addressed RL masters and students on other “state” occasions, including in 1987, at the dinner to honor Elizabeth Mary Gordon and Mary Elizabeth Gordon on the inauguration of the Mary Rousmaniere Gordon Library, at the celebration of the School’s 350th anniversary in 1995, at the Opening of the Spring Term in 1998, and on Founder’s Day in 2002. (His wife, Poppy, who was unable to be with us this time, spoke at the dinner to launch the Smith Arts Building in 1992.)

The Hennessys established the Fund in 2004 for the purpose of exposing RL's students and teachers to—and involving them in—the wider world through international study and travel. The Hennessys' generosity has also made available the means for an RL boy from each of the last six graduating classes to study at Eton College for his gap year. Over the seven years of the F. Washington Jarvis International Fund’s existence we have welcomed economist Paul Volcker; alumnus ambassador Richard Murphy; Council on Foreign Relations head Richard Haas; journalist Linda Fasulo; former president of CARE, Peter Bell; and last year General Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret.).

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