27 May 2023
“You must take these chances when they come your way, you must be bold enough to try, because you never know where you might end up,” Dr Suzie Imber urged students, staff and guests at this year’s Speech Day, using the example of her life-changing decision to take part in the BBC2 series ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’
Not only was our 2023 special guest speaker Dr Suzie Imber delighted to give this year’s student winners their prizes in a wonderful celebration of achievement in all its forms, she was clearly impressed by today’s music and drama performances. Having attended a girls’ school before embarking on a stellar career as a planetary space physicist, Dr Imber was an excellent role model as she urged students to be brave, to care and to work hard.
Sharing her story as a scientist, sportswoman, mountaineer, explorer and aspiring astronaut, Dr Imber clearly inspired students, staff, parents and other guests to ‘reach for the stars’. She made lofty ambitions feel attainable by describing herself as “in the middle division” at science at A Level and sharing the fact that effort “has stood me in good stead.” It has certainly been a key factor in her stellar scientific career and in other things she loves doing, including rowing, mountaineering and being a member of a mountain rescue team in the Peak District. Whatever your passions, “the things we really want are worth working for.” Speaking about reaching the summit of a mountain, she said, “Behind all those victorious photos that you see on Instagram … there’s another side of the coin you don’t see… the thousands of hours those people have put in to get to that point.”
After prizes were awarded, 2022-2023 Head Girl Léonie ended the ceremony with a wonderfully warm and encouraging Vote of Thanks at the end of her seven years at Woldingham. With the benefit of hindsight, she shared a letter she had written to her 11-year-old self, which she hoped would have some useful lessons for current students. These included to not fall into the trap of too frequently comparing yourself with others but embrace your own gifts and talents “to allow you to go through life true to your values and principles.”
Dr Whitehead said: "Congratulations to every student who won an award and thank you to the families and guests who joined us at school and remotely to help celebrate all that makes Woldingham special. It was a wonderful day and particularly poignant for our Upper Sixth as they prepare to leave Woldingham. Thank you to Fr Gerry for leading such a lovely Mass and to the staff team at Woldingham for organising such a successful Speech Day."
As he prepares to step down as Chair of Governors, Robert Parkinson made his last address as Chair after five years. Dr Whitehead took the opportunity to thank Robert Parkinson for his leadership and support to the school and to welcome Catharine Berwick, Woldingham alumna, who takes over from Robert Parkinson as Chair in June.