The St Beryl Society launched by Burgmann College this year takes it origins from the stuff of legend—when founding residents may or may not have “kidnapped” comedic duo Peter Cook and Dudley Moore from the Canberra Airport on 13 September 1971.

While the kidnapping part is most certainly mythic, the enterprising group of ardent fans did gatecrash the press conference for the pair’s famous Behind the Fridge tour, and did successfully persuade them to come to a celebratory dinner in the College Dining Hall.

Inaugural Master of the residential college Professor David Griffin (1971-1975) took the unexpected celebrity guests in his stride, and the residents enjoyed an extraordinary night of entertainment—”Pete and Dud” regaling them with jokes, piano playing and songs.

Burgmann alumnus Colin Plowman (1971-1972), one of the instigators, remembers it with great fondness.

“They were wonderful guests, and it was a great experience.”

This bold adventure cemented for Burgmann’s residents the early adoption of St Beryl as their patron saint—inspired by Cook and Moore’s infamous skit on the fictional Leaping Nuns of the Order of St Beryl, and celebrated annually on the College’s most important day of the year, Burg Day.

More than 50 years later, Burg Day continues to feature a nominated resident dressed as St Beryl, blessing a brick to symbolise her divine protection, followed by a pancake breakfast and a rambunctious and hilarious “Brick Race” around the College grounds.

When Burgmann was choosing a name for its new bequest society in 2022, it was an easy “leap” to make, to tap into this beloved tradition that not only connects every generation of residents, but quintessentially captures the creative, visionary and independent spirit of the Burgmann community, while also being synonymous with the preservation of this precious and unique collegiate culture.

“Emerging from the creek to first bless a brick—at a time when parts of the building were still under construction—St Beryl embodied the ethos of the community Burgmann College became in 1971: egalitarian, spirited, intellectual.

“It’s fitting that the Society established to ensure the longevity of our precious College into the future is named in honour of a character who embodies that ethos,” says Burgmann Director of Advancement. Amelia Zaraftis. “Her annual ‘visit’ helps our community sustain its intangible recipe of shared values and joyful contribution during residents’ formative years—I like to think St Beryl is proud to be associated with that. I’m certainly proud to be associated with St Beryl as a member of the St Beryl Society so this distinctive community can continue to be a crucible of transformational experiences for residents, long into the future.”

Global Philanthropic Senior Consultant, Chanel Hughes, worked with the College to develop its bequest communications and provide advice for the launch and was likewise delighted by the choice of title.

“This was an inspired decision by the College. It’s unique to Burgmann, deeply nostalgic and meaningful, creative and fun. It immediately evokes that sense of ‘tribe’ so important for a Gifts in Wills program, making bequestors feel like a special part of the Burgmann family.”

On 4th September 2023, almost 52 years to the day of the infamous “Pete and Dud” airport caper, College Council and Board Chair, Greg Mills, was thrilled to officially launch the St Beryl Society and welcome the 16 Founding Members who have generously chosen to make gifts in their wills to Burgmann.

Each of the bequestors, which include current and former staff and principals, alumni, volunteers, and friends of the College, was presented with a St Beryl pin, custom designed by alumna Thea Katauskas (1993), as part of the celebration. Amelia described it as “a very special and deeply moving occasion”.

“The gifts of these members of our community will transform the lives of residents through scholarships and bursaries, help continue the College ethos of egalitarianism and inclusivity, and ensure the success of Burgmann for years to come.”

In his closing remarks, Greg also highlighted to guests just how important such support is for the College’s continued thriving. “As I reflect on the last few years, which held both the very existential challenges of the pandemic and the jubilant celebrations marking the first 50 years of Burgmann College, one thing is clear: this community thrives as a result of its members, and because of the care and compassion they have for their fellow and future community members.

“I thank our Founding Members for their support for the long-term vision and future of Burgmann College, and I am honoured to officially launch the St Beryl Society.”

“I am honoured to be an inaugural member of the St Beryl Society. Inequality in Australia has increased significantly in the past 20 years. St Beryl Society funds will help both secure the future of Burgmann and assist a greater number of students from disadvantaged and less well-off backgrounds. They will be the richer for the special and unique experience of the Burgmann community.” Bob Northey, Former Principal (1989-1995), Founding Member of the St Beryl Society

“What a joy and delight it is to be here. I have had three periods of involvement with Burgmann College: first in the 70s, then the mid-90s, and from 2013 onwards, and Burgmann is life-changing. If you’ve been the recipient of something as life-changing as this, then it seems to me—what do they say—’to whom much has been given, much will be required’. I have myself been the recipient of scholarship funds on two occasions. So, it just seems good sense to be able to be part of this lovely gathering and this foundation-giving group.” Rev Dr Lewis Rushbrook, Former Principal (1995-2005).

Burgmann College is a residential college affiliated with the Australian National University, based in Canberra, ACT, Australia.

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