Our Donors’ Stories

Brisbane Girls Grammar School is grateful to have a generous community of donors and volunteers. We are pleased to celebrate and share some of the inspiring stories of support towards a Girls Grammar education.

The fourth Lady Principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Miss Sophia Beanland was born in 1852 in Bradford, a thriving industrial town of 100 000 in north England. Life for girls and women at that time was very different to today. Generally, they were expected to marry, have children and undertake domestic duties rather than pursue education, employment or professional careers, although significant social changes were beginning to emerge, including the suffragette movement and the concept of providing an education for girls.

By the 1850s, Sophia’s hometown of Bradford had experienced rapid population growth and migration as it became an international centre for the manufacture of textiles, particularly woollens, which brought wealth, prosperity and progress to the civic life of Bradford. For Sophia, it brought personal opportunity. Educated, confident and independent, she studied at London University and then Girton College at the University of Cambridge where she obtained a teaching qualification.

In 1875—the year Brisbane Girls Grammar School was founded—Miss Beanland took up a teaching position at the newly established Bradford Girls Grammar School. She became an advocate for young women, often publicly voicing her opinion about the contribution that women made, and could make, to their communities. Committed to the liberating nature of education, Sophia described it as ‘the most important subject that can engage the attention of mankind’, noting that education shaped a woman to be ‘more independent in spirit, more developed in character,’ and that ‘a woman had the right to a fuller life’. In 1882, Miss Beanland, then aged 31 years and accompanied by her mother, made the long and daring trip by sea from England to Brisbane—at that time a small colonial outpost—to begin her appointment as Lady Principal of Brisbane Girls Grammar School.

Miss Beanland believed that girls should receive a holistic, rather than a narrow, education and, based on her own education and early teaching experiences at Bradford Girls Grammar School, Miss Beanland ensured the students at Brisbane Girls Grammar School received a balanced curriculum comprising numeracy and literacy, mathematics and science as well as languages, music, art and physical education. She hired accomplished teachers from overseas to teach the girls and was conscious of effectively preparing the students for the entrance exams to Sydney University and universities in England (The University of Queensland did not open until 1911). Proving to be a progressive visionary, Miss Beanland also led significant advances to the School’s facilities. This included the construction of the School’s iconic Main Building and the establishment of a staff reference library, later named the Beanland Memorial Library and now incorporated within the Elizabeth Jameson Research Learning Centre. A believer in the value of physical education to enhance girls’ learning, Miss Beanland also launched a special appeal in 1886 to raise funds for the construction of the School’s first gymnasium and tennis courts and the establishment of the School tennis club and annual tennis prize.

In 1889, Miss Beanland became ill and, on her doctor’s advice, returned to England and maintained a close relationship with the Girls Grammar for the remainder of her life. In 1915, she established the Esther Beanland Medal in memory of her mother—an award in textile design to celebrate the creativity and craft of exceptional Grammar girls. Miss Beanland died in 1925 and bequeathed her estate to Brisbane Girls Grammar School ‘as a remembrance of Sir Charles Lilley’, the School’s founder, together with the gold bracelet watch she received as a gift when she left the School in 1889.

An advocate for gender equality, the value of education and the belief every student has potential, Miss Beanland made a profound contribution to the education of girls in Queensland. She has left a lasting legacy at Brisbane Girls Grammar School and we are proud to honour her memory and philanthropic spirit through The Sophia Beanland Circle. Established in 2020, the Sophia Beanland Circle celebrates and acknowledges those who have made a gift in their Will to Girls Grammar.

‘It is a privilege to be connected with the School and with so many others who are passionate about girls’ education’—Ann Caston (Pressland, 1958)

Ann Caston (Pressland, 1958) has dedicated her life to education and has an abiding relationship with Girls Grammar.

Commencing as a day girl in 1955, Ann became a boarder at Girls Grammar during her senior years, when her father was transferred to Dalby. Although she knew no one when arriving on her first day in January 1955, Ann soon enjoyed being with her classmates of IIIB. Finding her teachers always encouraging, Ann’s favourite subjects were French, Latin and Chemistry, all of which she studied at university and subsequently taught. She remembers being curious about the background of teacher, Madame Stenders, a refugee from Europe whom Ann admired for her courage and commitment. Madame Stenders provided opportunities for students to use language outside the classroom, including the annual Concours de Poesie and a concert, La Soirée des Ecoles. Ann aIso had a keen interest in music, especially piano and recalls when she was studying music for Senior she was given the privilege of practising on Miss Cook’s grand piano at 6.30 in the morning. One of her musical highlights was conducting her form (VB and VIB) in the Interform Choral Competition for the R.T. Jefferies and Etheldreda Jefferies Bursary (which Form VIB won), in 1958.

After leaving school, Ann enjoyed a decade-long career in teaching. Although teaching was not Ann’s first choice, she was thrilled when the State Government offered the opportunity to become a secondary teacher after two years of study as there was an urgent need for qualified teachers in many of the new state high schools being established around Queensland. The first year was full-time study at The University of Queensland, followed by a year at Kelvin Grove Teachers’ College. Students were also expected to complete tertiary studies while teaching. After a year teaching Chemistry, History and Music at Trinity Bay State High School in Cairns, in 1962 Ann was transferred to Harristown State High School in Toowoomba and drove to Brisbane to attend evening lectures in French.

After completing an Arts degree in 1964, majoring in French and Chemistry, Ann spent a short period studying in France before taking up a position at a school in Melbourne where she taught French, German and a beginners’ class in Indonesian. Ann returned to Queensland in 1974 and worked at several schools, in particular Marist College, Ashgrove, where she spent 20 years as Head of French.

Ann has always been an active member of the Old Girls Association. She was a committee member in 1959 but teaching appointments took her away from Brisbane until 1974. However, she always kept in touch with Girls Grammar, stating, ‘It is a privilege to be connected with the School and with so many others who are passionate about girls’ education’.

With a strong belief that Girls Grammar continues to offer an exceptional education for girls. Ann says that she is very grateful for the sacrifice her parents made to send her to BGGS and is delighted, and encouraged, to see the opportunities that Grammar girls enjoy and she would like to contribute to that purpose. ‘One way I can help the School achieve its future projects is by including a gift to Brisbane Girls Grammar School in my Will’.

‘The gift of education has enriched my life and opened doors that I could not have imagined possible’.—Mr David Rawson, Head of Department English Curriculum Development.

As current Head of Department English Curriculum Development at BGGS, David Rawson’s path through education is testament to the benefits of philanthropy. In his own words, ‘Having grown up below the poverty line, it was thanks to the generosity of others—often in the form of bursaries, scholarships, and grants—that I was able to attend university, find my fit in the world, and pave an exciting career in education. The gift of education has enriched my life and opened doors that I could not have imagined possible as a child. I am my parents’ wildest dreams come true’.

A Fulbright grant and a Harvard fellowship afforded David the opportunity to study with giants in the U.S. He says: ‘I can’t put a price on the value of what I learned, or on the experience of exchange I enjoyed’. In the U.S. discussions about philanthropy and financial aid are a normal part of the education conversation, recalls David—an important way of granting social and economic access to those on the margins. Upon returning to Australia he resolved to give back, to support others in the same way he had been supported.

David believes that schools, such as BGGS, must play a part in combatting inequality and that in the current day it is unacceptable that a student’s postcode—rather than her attitude or character—is more likely to determine her success. As a member of the BGGS community, David has consistently marvelled at the expertise of his colleagues, the richness of their shared learning experiences, the quality of resources and facilities, and the seemingly endless array of opportunities available to BGGS students. He would like to see these same opportunities available to girls and future leaders who can only dream of a Grammar education.

‘The generosity shown to me compels me to give back. Supporting the School’s Bursary Fund is one easy way I can play my part’.

‘I can think of nothing more worthwhile than giving another young woman the opportunity to explore their potential in the same way I was able to at BGGS.’ – Capt. Tegan Davey

Captain Tegan Davey (2000), attended Girls Grammar on a Maria Sulima Bursary.

The Maria Sulima Bursary enabled Tegan to receive a quality education and exposure to the broad co-curricular activities offered at the School.

Unfortunately, while Tegan was in primary school, her mother became seriously ill and without the Maria Sulima Bursary her parents would not have been in a position to send her to BGGS. It was an opportunity for her to try everything to find out what she enjoyed. Most importantly to Tegan, she made some wonderful friends at Girls Grammar, all of whom are making valuable contributions to the social fabric: following their dreams; working hard in their professions; raising families; and still making time for each other.

Tegan reflects fondly on her time at BGGS, so much so, that she was motivated to support the School’s Bursary Fund in the hope that she could assist another young woman to explore her potential in the same way she did at Girls Grammar.

‘I loved my time at BGGS and I could probably write a book on my memories!’

Tegan was heavily involved in the BGGS Instrumental Music Program. Her favourite memory involves playing the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto with her friend Courtenay Lind (2000). She also has fond memories of the Marrapatta Memorial Outdoor Education Centre near Imbil with Mr Tim and Mrs Sue Lanham and Mr Mark and Mrs Maryann Munnings—participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, which opened up many opportunities for Tegan beyond school. She was also fortunate enough to enjoy the educational travel opportunities offered by Girls Grammar through Language Study Tours to Shanghai, and the International Young Physicists’ Tournament in Budapest.

Tegan joined the Australian Defence Force (ADF) because to her it was an honourable profession, one that requires self-discipline and self-sacrifice but also promises adventure and challenge. She credits Girls Grammar for encouraging her to look broadly, keep an open mind and have the confidence to follow a unique path. Tegan was eager to make the most of every opportunity and Girls Grammar fostered the pursuit of excellence, a strong work ethic and sense of adventure—all skills required in the ADF.

For more than 16 years, Tegan has been in the Royal Australian Corps of Signals (three years in the Australian Army Reserve as a soldier and more than 13 years in the Army as an officer), working primarily in Information Communication Technology management roles. She has also studied a Bachelor of Nursing, sponsored by the Army, and in 2022 will commence work as an Army Nursing Officer. Tegan’s overseas deployments to East Timor and the Middle East have certainly been the highlights of her career. These deployments enabled her to work with some remarkable women and men from professional militaries across the world and also provided an insight into the culture and lives of others. Tegan has found these experiences humbling, and increases her appreciation for the exceptional quality of life we have here in Australia and in particular, the opportunities available to young women.

If she could give Grammar girls any advice it would be ‘to have confidence in yourself. Establish a sense of who you are and bring this to everything you do in life; do not let individuals or an organisation fundamentally change you.’ Keep embracing opportunities as they present themselves and, in the words of one of her first Army drill instructors, listen to what is said, not how it is said—look for lessons from mistakes and setbacks.

A proud Grammar Woman and supporter of the BGGS Bursary Fund, Tegan often reflects on how fortunate she was to attend Girls Grammar with bursary support and have the experiences she did.

‘I can think of nothing more worthwhile than giving another young woman the opportunity to explore their potential in the same way she was able to at BGGS’.

For John and Janice Logan the decision to support the School through the BGGS Bursary Fund was inspired by the Logan family’s long association with Girls Grammar.

John’s mother Mrs Gloria Ida Logan (Levy, 1944) was an Old Girl and had a strong connection with the School. She was the older sister of Wanda Collins (Levy, 1954), mother-in-law of Janice Logan (Borgert, 1974), John’s wife, and grandmother of John and Janice’s daughter Elizabeth Logan (2002)—all Grammar Women. John and his brothers attended Brisbane Grammar School, and had his mother had any daughters, he believes they would most certainly have attended BGGS.

John’s mother Gloria graduated in 1944, returning to teach art at the School between 1950 and 1967—the Gloria Ida Logan Prize for Excellence in Creative Practice was established in 2002 in her memory.

John and Janice have also generously supported the BGGS Bursary Fund in recent years.

‘My mother’s parents were hardly well-off. They must have made considerable sacrifices to send my mother, Gloria, and then her sister, Wanda, to Girls Grammar.’

John says ‘Gloria retained an enduring affection for Girls Grammar. How well I remember her observing that when you educate a girl, you educate the whole family. I am sure she would be satisfied that our donation is being used to assist a promising young student to attend Girls Grammar.’

‘If you can help someone else— well, why not? There’s so much pleasure in it.’—Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser

Margaret and Cathryn—the Mittelheuser sisters—commenced at Brisbane Girls Grammar School in 1945 and 1946 respectively. The girls personified the School motto, Nil Sine Labore—nothing without work—and this endured in their endeavours later in life.

Born just 15 months apart in 1931 and 1932, Margaret and Cathryn spent their early years on their family’s cane farm in Bundaberg, which had been established by their grandfather in the early 1880s. The young girls were bright and inquisitive, and spent many hours adventuring together. With the uncertainties and disruption of World War II, the family sold the cane farm and moved to Brisbane.

At 16 years old, Margaret enrolled at The University of Queensland (UQ). In 1952, she graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce. As one of only two women in the program, she was determined to work in a role where she could use figures. Gaining employment as an accountant at the Commonwealth Department of the Interior, Margaret became the first woman graduate in the Commonwealth Public Service in Queensland. In 1956, she left Brisbane to pursue a stockbroking career with Sydney-based firm, Ralph W King and Yuill. Margaret’s talent, combined with her hard work, tenacity and resilience, saw her excel in her chosen field. In 1964, at just 33 years old, she was made a Partner at King and Yuill and became the first woman to be registered as a stockbroker in Australia, and one of the few female stockbrokers in the world. During her impressive and lengthy career, Margaret was a pioneer for women in business.

While Cathryn followed a different path, her achievements were equally remarkable.

After graduating from Girls Grammar, Cathryn initially trained in nursing. In 1963, she enrolled to study a Bachelor of Science at UQ, majoring in Plant Physiology. She graduated with First Class Honours and the University Medal in 1968. Cathryn went on to undertake a PhD in Plant Physiology and was one of the first Australians published in the internationally renowned journal, Nature. Cathryn was later appointed Senior Research Fellow and then Acting Lecturer in the Botany Department at UQ, one of only a handful of women engaged in science research and teaching at that time.

The Mittelheuser sisters always maintained their close connection to Girls Grammar. Margaret was Treasurer of the Old Girls Association between 1952 and 1953 and later served on the Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1990. Not only were Margaret and Cathryn pioneers for women in business and science, they also led the way for women in philanthropy, supporting a range of educational and cultural institutions and other causes. Throughout the decades, their generosity to Girls Grammar has been extraordinary, supporting the School to continually improve facilities and provide enriching programs to benefit students.

Understanding how important it is for girls to be encouraged to study and work in science, in 2019 Dr Cathryn Mittelheuser AM (1949), contributed a significant personal gift towards the construction of the Science Learning Centre. The Physics and Chemistry departments within the Science Learning Centre are named in recognition of the Mittelheuser sisters, acknowledging their incredible achievements, philanthropy and service to Brisbane Girls Grammar School and their enduring commitment to an excellent education for girls.

Born in 1911 in Galicia, a region which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire spanning what is now south eastern Poland and western Ukraine, Dr Maria Sulima arrived in Brisbane in 1949. Having attained a Doctorate in Law and Economics from Florence University, Maria established a thriving business in Brisbane as a real estate agent and operated a translation service and migration agency.

Education and academic achievement were important in her life and underpinned her belief that women should have the opportunity to benefit from an excellent education. In 1992, the year prior to her death, Dr Sulima visited the School, selecting Girls Grammar as the vehicle to fulfil her dream of providing an exceptional education to young women.

Dr Maria Sulima passed away the following year leaving a generous gift in her Will to establish the Maria Sulima Bursary awarded to students who display the qualities of a Grammar girl, but who would be unable to attend the School without financial assistance.

Over 20 young women have benefited from a Maria Sulima Bursary and BGGS continues to offer this opportunity to a girl whose character, talent, academic ability and intelligence suggests that she will take full advantage of the opportunities a Girls Grammar education offers.

June Ada Wheeler (1943) was born in 1926 and commenced at Brisbane Girls Grammar School in 1940, while her brother, Gordon, attended Brisbane Grammar School. At school, June was very sociable and relished her friendships with fellow Grammar girls. An avid reader, she was often spotted with a book in hand. Loyal to no particular genre, June was happy to read anything other than her assigned class readings!

In the 1940s, while June was at BGGS, the Beanland Library consisted of a large bookcase and table displaying journals in the Main Building. Her passion for reading was encouraged by her English teacher, Miss Marjorie Elliott (1941), a BGGS alumna, who imbued girls with a deep love of literature. June was also particularly fond of her Mathematics teacher, Miss Marion Maclean. Marjorie and Marion inspired their pupils with a love of learning and showed them the meaning of intellectual integrity. Both teachers were passionate about educating girls and contributed to the School’s culture of empowering young women. Through their service to the School, Marjorie and Marion demonstrated the importance of ‘giving back’—a quality June would develop later in life.

After turning 18, June enlisted in the Army and became a wireless operator during World War II. After the war, she studied journalism briefly before deciding to complete a Diploma in Physiotherapy at The University of Queensland. At the time, physiotherapy was an emerging field and like so many of her peers, June moved to the UK after graduation to work for the National Health Service. Not long after turning 40, June decided to return to Australia where she met physiotherapist, Lois Schultz, through the network of physiotherapy practitioners.

June and Lois had known each other for many years through the network before opening a professional practice together. Little did they know, this would form a friendship lasting more than 50 years. Lois—a St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School alumna—and June shared a deep connection with their respective schools and believed strongly in helping others. Knowing firsthand the benefits of educating girls, June and Lois thought they could help by leaving money in their Wills.

June’s decision to support the BGGS Library Fund is a fitting gift for a generous woman who loved reading, and valued the importance of her Girls Grammar education, not only while at the School, but throughout her whole life. BGGS was honoured to receive the Schultz Wheeler Bequest, through which the School has been able to acquire a wide range of library resources including books, DVDs and textbooks.