St Thomas More College Marks 50 Years of Innovative Education

​​As St Thomas More College, Sunnybank, proudly celebrates its 50th anniversary, it's a time of reflection on its distinctive journey and the vision that shaped the college it is today. 

Commencing classes during the Brisbane floods of 1974, it was the first college of the Brisbane Diocesan Education Office to be led by a lay principal, with lay teachers, and that offered a coeducational education from 1975 when students from St Ursula’s College joined the community. 

Father Barney O’Shea, director of the education office, together with the inaugural lay staff, including Principal Mr Jim Slingsby, and Father Tom Hegarty, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, played pivotal roles in the foundation of the school. Despite scepticism about a lay staff's capacity to impart a solid Catholic education, their efforts received public support from Archbishop Rush. 

In January 1974, the school opened as the first secondary college administered by the Brisbane Diocesan College Education Office, dedicated to St Thomas More. This dedication encapsulated values of family, scholarship, justice, Christian principles, and spirituality, echoed in the college motto, “God’s Servant First.” 

Innovatively, from its inception, the college developed a pastoral care program, emphasising essential life skills and Christian values, becoming a model for others. The school's culture was progressive, initially foregoing corporal punishment and student uniforms, offering a unique educational experience. 

The college's growth was marked by community and parental involvement. The Turton Building, the initial structure, was expanded through concerted efforts, including fundraising by the Parents & Friends Association and the Mothers Club. These initiatives were complemented by the staff's commitment to embedding Gospel values in every facet of college life, from curriculum to extracurricular activities. 

Under successive leaderships, the college continued to evolve, maintaining its core values while embracing changes like the introduction of uniforms in 1980, a sports polo shirt. In 1989 the formal day uniform was made compulsory. Principals Chris Noonan and Peter Elmore oversaw significant infrastructural and technological advancements, enhancing both the aesthetic and functional aspects of the campus. This evolution contributed to a surge in enrolments, affirming the college's standing on the southside of Brisbane. 

Most recently, under principal Les Conroy, the college has seen the culmination of its Master Plan with notable additions like the Chapel of St Thomas More, The Thomas More Café, school entry and car park development. 

As St Thomas More College embarks on its next half-century, it remains a lighthouse of progressive education, deeply rooted in its founding values, continually adapting and flourishing in a changing world. 

This 50th anniversary is not just a milestone but a testament to a vision that has nurtured thousands, leaving an indelible mark on the community it serves. 

Looking ahead, the college is organising a year of anniversary events for past students, families, and staff and is compiling an anniversary book to document the developments of the past decade, supplementing the college’s 40th Anniversary publication. 

Past students, teachers, and families are encouraged to reconnect with the college and join in the anniversary festivities. 

50th Anniversary email for questions: Therese Fortunaso – School Officer - Events & Communications, 

Upcoming Anniversary Events 

Friday, 15 March 2024 - Parents & Friends Trivia Night 
Saturday, 8 June 2024 - 50th Anniversary Celebration 
Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 22, 23 and 24 August - School Musical 
Term 2, Week 7 - Football match 
College principals since foundation in 1974 

Jim Slingsby 1974-1979 
Dr Tony Baker – 1980-1982 
Damien Barker-1983 – 1989 
Peter O’Connor 1989 – 2002 
Chris Noonan 2002-2009 
Peter Elmore 2010 – 2016 
Les Conroy 2017- current​ 

IMAGE CAPTION: L-R, Foundation Principal Jim Slingsby, with past principals Damien Barker, Peter O’Connor, Chris Noonan, Peter Elmore, Principal Les Conroy and Brisbane Catholic Education Director–School Services South, Derek Maclean. Absent: Dr Tony Baker.

© BCE/St Thomas More College/2024.