The Kilkenny College community received the news of the death of former Headmaster Canon Robert John (Jack) Black on the 18thSeptember last with great sadness. The immediate response was of prayer and support to Mrs. Ollie Black, to Richard, Andrea and Nicole and to the wider family circle.
Canon Black was appointed by the Board of Governors to the position of Headmaster / Principal in June 1996 following the retirement of Mr. Sam McClure. Canon Black had completed 11 years as Headmaster in Dundalk Grammar School and brought the experience, knowledge and understanding gained in that role to the immediate beneficial service of Kilkenny College. Building on the achievements of his predecessors, Canon Black oversaw a significant phase of growth, development and expansion to the facilities and resources of Kilkenny College during his nine years of leadership until his own retirement in June 2005.
A kind man, with a warm hearted good nature, Canon Black lived out his faith in service of this community. Believing in the first instance in the intrinsic value of each student he sought to ensure that the College provided the full range of opportunity for all abilities and interests. His leadership was a dynamic one which prioritised the education opportunity given to each student irrespective of gender or ability. Canon Black oversaw the introduction of nine new subjects within the curriculum. The Department of Education and Skills accepted the strength of his argument that Kilkenny College is a community based school and provided full or contributory funding on this basis, funding denied to the main ‘fee-charging’ schools.
He saw the vital component Boarding played in the service of the community and ensured investment, upgrading and expansion of facilities occurred. New facilities for senior Boarder girls and boys were developed, as was a second dining hall.
Recognising that the growth in enrolments from 675 to in excess of 800 required a more structured form of pastoral care, Canon Black developed the roles of Houseparents in Boarding and Care Teams for all Year Groups. He oversaw the expansion of staffing focused on the pastoral care and supervision of boarding students ensuring that the family-based nature of Kilkenny College continued and was strengthened.
Canon Black gave of himself with absolute commitment to his task. His was a regular and well-regarded presence around the Dioceses, always welcome and trusted by all. Those who needed support, guidance, advice or care, knew in Canon Black they would be given time, understanding and action on their behalf. This applied as much to staff working in Kilkenny College as it did to the families of students enrolled. Active and enthused by all he undertook, Canon Black had a generous sense of humour, a ready smile and a forgiving nature.
Kilkenny College was the fortunate beneficiary of nine years of outstanding Christian service and leadership from 1996-2005. Throughout, the love and support of his wife Ollie and family Richard, Andrea and Nicole, was obvious to all who knew them. We today give thanks for the contribution of Canon Black and express the prayer, love and support of all students, Boards and staff to the immediate and wider family at this time of deep loss and grief.