Obituary: Rev Herbert (Bert) Rhead Stevens AM

Herbert Rhead StevensCompiled by Saide Stevens and Robert Gottliebsen

Rev Herbert (Bert) Rhead Stevens AM

16/05/1922 – 16/07/2015

Described as “one of Australia’s foremost educators”, Bert was born at Rockhampton Queensland to Harry Charles Stevens and Margaret Rhead Stevens (Cook), the fifth child in a family of seven children.

Bert’s early education at Rangeville Primary School, where his father was headmaster and his eldest brother a pupil teacher, was followed by secondary school at Toowoomba Grammar School where he concentrated on sport rather than academic learning.

In 1939 he took up the offer of an apprenticeship at Toowoomba Electrical Light & Power Company.

In 1941 he enlisted in the RAAF-ground staff as an electrician, transferring in 1943 to air crew. During this period Bert found a new direction in his life and upon discharge in 1945 he completed his Matriculation through an army retraining program at South Brisbane hoping to qualify for theological studies at university.

He graduated with a BA (Hons) 1951 and B of Divinity 1954.

In the meantime (1946-1948) he was a home missionary and housemaster at Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School and later at Albury Grammar School.

Bert and Sadie Vine met in Albury and decided to marry at the end of 1948. Both commenced university studies at Melbourne University in 1949.

In January 1955, Bert was ordained a minister of the Presbyterian Church and inducted into the exit charge of Morwell East housing estate by his mentor and friend Rev Stephen Yarnold. That year his elder daughter, Susan, was born.

In 1957 Bert’s second daughter, Wendy, was born in Ballarat where he had accepted the position of pastoral care master and history teacher. To help repay an education loan, Bert spent nearly three years locum preaching on a weekly circuit that included Patchewollock, Rupanyup, Hopetoun, Mittiak and Quyen. Leaving home at 5.30 am and preaching at three churches he would return home at 1:30am to sleep before rising early on Monday to take up school duties, preparation of lessons and study for his Bachelor of Education which was completed in 1962.

He was involved with the foundation of Eltham College and consultant to Braemar College.

Bert had a formative influence on Penleigh & Essendon Grammar School, creating the joint school and leading it for nearly 25 years. Along with his family, this was his greatest achievement and one he dedicated his life to.

He also settled on a small working farm at Metcalfe, joining the community through the CFA, Shire Council, building a new church and offering preaching supply whenever there was a vacancy. Fencing, clearing land, and gardening absorbed some of his enormous energy.

Bert followed Community Service interests including treasurer of Western Hospital Board (1992-1996), Metcalfe CFA (25 years), councillor of Metcalfe Shire, leadership of Melbourne Opera, leadership of RAAFA.

Throughout his 60 years of ministry Bert served the Church offering pastoral care in all settings, relieving ministers who needed unplanned leave or who were taking on additional responsibilities. In particular he served the congregations of Metcalfe, Mia Mia, Eltham and Canterbury. His ministry was expressed through the ethos he created at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School.

Bert was devoted to his family and his love and care surrounded his wife Sadie, daughters Susan and Wendy. He adored and was very proud of his two grandchildren Jessica and Ryan Graham, always interested in their progress and development. He respected his son-­in-law Chris and his fine achievements.

Thank you for the years we shared, the independence you encouraged in us, the life lessons you taught us.



1960-61 Headmaster Hamilton College (Retired so the Council could join Alexandria College and Hamilton College)

1962 Vice Principal and resident House Master Ivanhoe Grammar School

I963-1987 Principal Essendon Grammar School

l970 (With the consent of EGS Council) Acting Principal Penleigh Ladies College

1973-1987 Principal of Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School.

1979-1981 Chairman of Scots School Albury.

1985-1986 Chairman Association Independent Schools Victoria

1987-1988 National President Independent Schools of Australia 1990-1993 Principal Kingswood College

Uniting Church Synod Positions:

1972 -1982 Chairman of Synod Education Committee.

1978-1982 Chairman of Synod Business Committee.


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