Dr Denis Gordon (Fr 1954) recently retired as General Practitioner up in Belmont, NSW. He loved what he did, performing more than half a million consultations (amongst other things) during his working life. Denis continues to have a strong connection to St Andrew’s College – he regularly returns to the College for his fresher year reunion lunch, takes part in the Annual Golf Day and has had the honour of saying first grace at the Alumni Society’s Annual Dinner more than once!
Please tell us a bit more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Belmont, NSW. My parents settled there in 1936, the year I was born. Dad was a General Practitioner. I attended Belmont Primary School and Newcastle Boys’ High School. Whilst at high school I enjoyed playing football, cricket and swimming. Outside of school, I enjoyed the local swimming club. We trained in the open Belmont Baths and Lake Macquarie, no matter the conditions or weather! I also enjoyed going to Pony Club; my mother was an excellent rider.
Why did you choose to reside at St Andrew’s College?
My mother booked me for interviews at Drew’s and Paul’s. Drew’s was first and the Principal accepted me and I saw no reason for any further interviews.
What parts of College life were you involved in?
I very much enjoyed the social aspects of College – formals, informals, Open Nights and participating in the Swimming and Golf teams. I was three-time, Intercollegiate Scratch Golf Champion for St Andrew’s, for which there was a Perpetual Trophy – which now cannot be found! The Intercollegiate Golf Championships were played at The Australian, Royal Sydney and Monash. I also enjoyed friendships and activities with students from the other colleges.
What would you say was the best thing you remember about your time at College as a student?
My friends from College are still very much part of my life. We had great tutorials in College, interaction and assistance within one’s own group, and the senior students were greatly appreciated.
College and university was quite different in your time. What are the main changes that stand out to you today for better or worse?
Worse…Abolishment of Commonwealth & Teachers College Scholarships for University Education has left great financial debt for today’s undergraduates. The uncertainty of guaranteed employment was never the case in the 1950s– 1960s. We also had longer stays during my time which gave a greater dimension and sense of continuity within College. Better…Present standard of College accommodation, including food; Myriad of extracurricular activities, opportunities, enhances College life; college scholarships give opportunities for many to have lives enhanced, horizons broadened; Large numbers of ex-servicemen returning from WWll were still in College when I was a Fresher. They added a wonderful dimension of service, discipline and camaraderie to College life for us younger fellows to admire and emulate.
How did St Andrew’s College help you achieve your goals in your career and/or your life?
The quality of friends, together with our common goal to succeed and to be proud of our College and being St Andrew’s men. The standards and ethics learned from College life also set us in good stead with loyalty and commitment in our professions and for life. You learn invaluable lessons whilst living in College, whilst also forming standards, lifelong friendships and a broad understanding of all levels of society, cultures and beliefs.
What was your favourite thing about being GP?
It was great working with my father, my younger brother, Richard and briefly Richard’s wife. I was able to make use of the changes and improvements in Medical Science over the 56 years I practiced. Some of the changes were absolutely unbelievable. I enjoyed practicing in my hometown, among those I knew so well. In latter years, I was still treating people with whom I’d commenced kindergarten with at Belmont School. My wife Robin and I followed my parents’ involvement in the Belmont community as workers and patrons of many groups. I was the Hon. Medico for 15 years for our local rugby league team and for 50-plus years the Hon. Medico for our local Swansea-Belmont Surf Club.
You still attend many College events. What motivates you to stay involved with the College after all this time?
It’s a great opportunity to be with friends and to keep up with College progression. We appreciate the hospitality extended to us and the interest in us, by the College. We hope we can continue to be part of the St Andrew’s community.
What are you reading/watching/or listening to now that you would recommend to others?
I enjoy listening to ABC radio Classic FM or playing 12-inch vinyl classical records whilst exercising. I also enjoy watching TV, particularly, British ‘whodunnits’, old sitcoms and period productions. I’ve also been revisiting books from my childhood and delighting in their humour – A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Damon Runyon’s Runyon on Broadway and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in addition to golf books.
What words of advice would you give to young Androvians, especially those who are looking to enter into a career in medicine?
Do your best. Don’t let it get you down – just soldier on to the end and enjoy College whilst you’re there. Enjoy your work when days of study are over. It is a great job and a worthwhile profession.
Is there anything else we should ask you about or you would like to add?
Wise words, from my dear Mother. She said, “Great to follow your chosen career path, but it is more important you choose more carefully your partner for life… as you can always change your job!”