My connection with Greg Smith, both as a colleague and a dear friend, stretched decades. I had been teaching HSIE at William Carey Christian School for a few years when Greg arrived in late 1990s as a new graduate teacher. I later moved on, but only a few years passed before Greg and I were working together again at Inaburra School. Greg joined the team at Shire Christian School in 2016.
Greg had a fine mind and a deep understanding of Science. While he may be remembered as an expert in Chemistry, Greg also had an outstanding knowledge of Physics and Biology. He taught all 3 of these HSC subjects. Greg desired for all his students to achieve academically, although his greater desire was for his students to develop a love of learning which transcended marks.
While Greg’s greater desire was to foster a love of learning, his greatest desire was for his family, students and friends to know and love God. He relied on his strong knowledge of the bible to sensitively encourage others to recognise Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Greg shared with me several times how blessed and energised he was teaching a Christian Studies class this year. He recently expressed to students his hope that one day you will hear the words “well done good and faithful servant”. Greg has now heard those words from our Heavenly Father.
Greg’s servant heart meant that he followed graciously and led humbly. I spent many hours with him brainstorming the needs of students, staff and the school community. Greg enthusiastically embraced these conversations, sharing wise insights and proposing practical solutions that were motivated by his concern for others. Greg always rose to the challenge of responding to the most complex and sensitive student well-being issues. His intuition and tenacity invariably brought about the best possible outcome.
Leadership is mentally and emotionally hard. This side of heaven we see in a mirror dimly. The complexity of people and the brokenness of the world in which we live means that no leader of student wellbeing can see every pastoral issue with complete clarity. Appreciating this, Greg listened, reflected and sought to act in the best interests of those he had the privilege to lead. Greg’s limitless optimism enabled him to move on from challenging situations. This quality enabled him to lift the spirits of the principal when his boss and friend could only see a half empty glass.
Greg was inclusive and welcoming. It was irrelevant to him if you were tall, like he and I, or short. It did not matter to Greg if you were young or old, a lawyer or a labourer. When I was single, Greg and Nicole did not want me to spend Friday nights at home alone falling asleep on the lounge watching Better Homes and Gardens. Rather I became a defacto uncle to Liam and Ethan, playing backyard soccer or giving them a piggyback before dinner. We ate together and I felt a part of a family with children. After the boys went to bed we would talk, often with a beer in hand, about all sorts of topics and issues. We tried to spur each other on to love and good deeds.
As a mate, Greg perceived my needs and struggles and had the courage to ask me a searching question or share a perception out of love and concern. This changed my life in the most wonderful way when he challenged my natural risk aversion and gave me the confidence to start a relationship with Kara. Greg celebrated our wedding 7 years ago as part of the bridal party and remained a faithful and much valued friend until his sudden and tragic passing from a cardiac arrest while playing indoor soccer on November 17. He was 45.
Greg probably never fully realised the extent of his influence on the lives of others. He was too modest. However, I have no doubt that the impact he had on me was played out, in a different form, on the lives of many. As we grieve his passing we are assured that Greg is rejoicing in heaven in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Mr Brett Hartley
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