Bruce Fraser knows first-hand the incredible power of an endowment fund for supporting education – the 1955 alumnus was responsible for establishing the St Andrew’s College Foundation more than 25 years ago, creating two significant legacies at the same time.
“I felt as a person going out knocking on the doors of old boys, I really had to show a personal commitment to the cause, so I made a bequest.”
In 1990, Bruce accepted an invitation from the then College Rector and Board Chair to assist in setting up the Foundation, and was the inaugural Chair for three years.
His bequest is an untagged gift to the Foundation Endowment Fund, an investment in the long-term financial security of St Andrew’s, helping the College to thrive at what it does best: providing a world-class education.
“A Foundation takes a long, long time to get under way, but if it’s created with an endowment fund, where only the interest is used, it becomes a tremendous asset.
“It means the College can meet priority funding needs that otherwise could only be covered by constantly raising the tuition fees.
“At the end of the day, the College can only survive if its income exceeds its outgoings.”
In 2018, aged 81, Bruce and his wife Ailsa decided to convert the bequest into an in vivo gift, so that students could begin benefit from it immediately.
Bruce says he was not an academic student and “truly left” the College after his final year. His older brother had attended Christchurch Boys’ School, but the success of the Fraser family business meant Bruce’s father could afford to send his second son to St Andrew’s College instead.
To Bruce, it was all much the same, except for a dramatic moment that left a lasting impact, when English teacher Henry Dowling chastised a rowdy class by slamming his books on the desk, declaring, ‘Do you realise your parents have made huge sacrifices to send you here?’
“There was a stunned silence from everyone. I had never heard that before.”
The self-confessed B-stream student mysteriously came top in Latin, but Bruce’s true passion was rowing, which was introduced after he began as a third former in 1951. Bruce was in the first crew and continued to row competitively for 17 years. He is a life member of both the Union Rowing Club (URC), one of the oldest sports clubs in Canterbury, and Canterbury Rowing Association, and has been a board member and past president of Rowing New Zealand.
After school, Bruce spent three years working at the National Bank, where he met Ailsa, and was transferred to Wellington before realising he would rather be part of the family business, a non-ferrous jobbing foundry, specialising in bathroom fittings and machinery componentry. The business was extremely successful, exporting 85% of its product internationally, and was eventually sold to McKechnie, which allowed Bruce to retire at age 55.
Bruce was reconnected with St Andrew’s as a parent, through son Robert, and is re-discovering the College all over again through a granddaughter, who has picked up her grandfather’s passion for rowing.
“I am enjoying the fact my granddaughter is there now. I pick her up from school once a week and bring her home, so am gradually getting drawn in again.”
Ailsa has also been a continuous active supporter of the College, as both parent and grandparent. She has, for many years now, been a member and one-time President of the Ladies' Circle, the group for partners and grandparents of Old Collegians and students, who meet regularly and fundraise on behalf of the College.
What stands out for Bruce from his own school days is the St Andrew’s ethos and culture.
“It had a code of conduct that was distinctive from other schools.”
He thinks the College continues to shine.
“St Andrew’s today is a fantastic school. The kids are incredibly motivated, the academic standards are high, and the events they put on—the pipe band, the orchestra, the musicals, are just outstanding; it makes me cringe at our own pipe band efforts!
“I think they are doing a magnificent job.”