100 Years Young

Mentone Grammar’s progressive School culture is founded upon a rich legacy of social pioneers – honorable and resilient leaders who knew the value of an excellent education and were willing to work hard to achieve it.

As we celebrate our Centenary in 2023, we remain incredibly proud of our history and the progress we have made from our modest beginnings in 1923 when just 56 intrepid young boys stood on the lawn of Frogmore House – still ‘home’ to the current Principal and members of the School Executive – to the vibrant and dynamic ELC – Year 12 school of over 1,900 students we have today.

Over the decades, our School has continued to grow, develop and maintain a strong reputation for excellence in education. We thank every member of our Community, past, present and future who keep this incredible legacy alive.

Mentone Grammar through the decades

Sunday 3 March, 1923 was a proud day as 200 guests gathered on the Frogmore House lawn to officially open Mentone Grammar School. The first Headmaster of the School, Mr Henry Lycett Tonkin, along with two staff, greeted 56 boys aged from six to 15. Through his constant encouragement, his young School gained considerable success on the sporting field, and he worked tirelessly to promote the ideals of citizenship and learning, which he believed were the building blocks of a healthy society. In 1927, with an eye to establishing an enduring tradition within the School community, Henry Tonkin launched the Old Mentonians Society.

The School suffered a setback during the Great Depression and student numbers dwindled. Royce Mayne accepted a short one-year term at the school, running a disciplined, but struggling organisation.

In 1933 Charles Campbell Thorold, an Oxford-educated Englishman of impeccable family background became the School’s third Headmaster. Scholarly, dignified and the epitome of a gentleman, Thorold’s experience and deep commitment to education came to a sudden and abrupt end when he died in 1939.

His son John Jeffery Thorold (JJ), an accountant by profession, was suddenly responsible for 42 students and had inherited a debt-ridden school. The School was saved through the benefaction of a parent, together with Francis Wellington Were, Jeffery’s grandfather, and numbers grew during the war from 50 to 280. To ensure survival in the 1940s, JJ established a Nursery school for girls and boys which was a great success and also ensured the School’s long term success by returning the School to a publicly-incorporated association. He set about appointing the School’s new Board of Management and then sold the School to the Board. The first Cadet Unit was raised in 1943 and it was JJ’s initiative that the School gained official recognition as a Church of England School and joined the Associated Grammar Schools (AGS) in 1958.

As Jeffery wasn’t a teacher, he made several appointments to the post of Head of School to ensure the teaching program was managed by a qualified and competent head. First, Bessie Johnston, Acting Headmistress, 1939, who vacated the role to set up the Nursery School. Second, Arthur Burnaby, Headmaster 1941, a very experienced and respected teacher, and lastly Lionel Ashley Large (1945-1960) who oversaw the scholastic and social development of the School with great success for sixteen years.

Keith William Jones set about rebuilding the School, through an ambitious building program, the recruitment of many outstanding teachers and an added emphasis on academic performance.

There was a steady growth in enrolments, a fine stream of scholars produced by the School, together with an extraordinary transformation in the School’s physical environment. A Science wing, lecture theatres, a new library, two gymnasiums, the Thorold Hall as well as a second swimming pool were all constructed and successive Keysborough Playing Fields were purchased, the second of which is the Springvale Road site that is used today.

The Shoreham property also came into the School’s ownership through the generous benefaction of Robert Sykes, a foundation Board member.

Keith Jones retired through serious illness at the end of 1987, his death occurring on 10 January 1988.

The appointment of Neville Clark, a decorated Vietnam veteran, ensured Mentone Grammar's ongoing traditions were guaranteed. Scholarship, Christian values and practice as well as pastoral care delivered through the Mentor system ensured the School maintained its reputation.

A special relationship with Nagoya Gakuin School in Japan was established and co-curricular activities like the Kokoda Track widened student horizons. The Gregory Fish Library was constructed in 1991 and the Junior School’s Don Ingram Centre was successfully completed in 2001.

Timothy Argall wrought many changes at the School, presenting students with altogether new learning experiences, including the introduction of the 9 to the Power of 4 program at Year 9 level. Glass classrooms were introduced and the Sports and Function Centre was opened in 2005. Timothy Argall oversaw the decision in 2006 to admit girls and fully embrace co-education.

Appointed in 2007, our current Principal has taken up the challenge of preserving Mentone Grammar’s cherished traditions, while transforming the School into a contemporary, dynamic and innovative learning environment.

Mal Cater has set about transforming the School and managing co-education the second time around. The innovative Together-Apart-Together model was introduced where students learn in mixed and single gender environments.

The School’s Master Plan is now complete with an ambitious building program including the Science and Environmental Studies Centre (2009), Eblana Campus (2011), Greenways Campus (2013), Creativity Centre (2017) and the Keith Jones Year 5/6 Learning Centre (2018).

The opening of the Creativity Centre in 2017 has given the Performing and Visual Arts and technologies an outstanding centre from which to inspire future generations. Music, Drama and Performing Arts have always been integral to Mentone Grammar and they have played a key role throughout the School’s history.

Mal has advised the Board that he will end his contracted tenure in December 2023. This will conclude 17 years of exemplary service as Principal, preceded by six years as Deputy Headmaster.

Mal has led the School with great vision, energy and distinction in a changing 21st century world. By any standards, his contribution has been immense.