It is with immense sadness that the Wellington Community has learned of the passing of Dr Joanna Seldon.
Sir Anthony wrote: ‘I am very sorry to break the news that Joanna died late last night surrounded by our three children, Jessica, Susannah and Adam. She had an incurable cancer for several years, enduring frequent long periods in hospital with incredible grace and courage, but eventually she could no longer prevail against it. Joanna loved our time at Wellington and those many adults and children she knew well. It had a special place in her heart. Thank you to all of you who showed kindness and love to her. If you wish to write, my office has set up a special email account for condolences: email@example.com. In the next few days I will be rather swamped but I will of course respond as soon as I am able. With thanks for all the happy times and memories you gave her.’
Joanna was a truly inspirational figure within the College for the decade during which her husband, Sir Anthony Seldon, was Master. A wonderful and deeply loving mother to Jessica, Susannah and Adam, Joanna was also an outstanding teacher, a brilliant author in her own right, and simply a wonderful human being. Her 2015 valediction from the Wellington College Yearbook captures the essence of what made Joanna such a special person:
Dr Joanna Seldon was a quite outstanding English teacher, who instilled a deep love of Literature amongst her pupils. She took her young charges seriously, always challenging them to reach higher, read deeper, think harder, her forensic intelligence both inspiration and guide, her warmth and kindness nourishing true learning. More importantly, she made her pupils feel they were the most important people in her life, and that is something really special for girls and boys finding their way to adulthood. This ability to focus absolutely on the people she was with allowed her to contribute so wonderfully to all walks of Wellington life in her own important role as Master’s wife. In particular, the way she nurtured the Wellington staff as well as all the pupils is worth noting, and so many things stand out. She made a point of visiting every new baby – and there were a number of those in recent years! She hosted an annual staff children’s party, an enchanted moment for families at the end of the school year, as well as ensuring an unfailingly generous welcome at the hundreds of events held each year at the Lodge. That she allowed her home to be home to so many lent real warmth to the heart of the College.
Joanna added erudition to the school. She created the Newsome Society, through which she reminded us of the great minds amongst the teaching staff, and how they could only inspire their pupils if they were prepared to listen to and learn from each other. It is entirely appropriate that the society has been renamed the Joanna Seldon Society. In tune with her own passion, Joanna formed a pupils’ creative writing society, the fruits of which were seen in her regular South Front publication, a proper outlet for Wellington writers. Many will recall with fondness her contributions to the Week Ahead, where she penned her regular Master’s Woof column, a fresh perspective on College life seen through the eyes of her beloved Retriever, Trev. Joanna also led and celebrated the Jewish Assembly, adding to the richly diverse and tolerant nature of Wellington life that she did so much to promote.
Joanna knew Wellington from many angles: wife of the Master, English teacher, Mother to Adam, who spent two years in the Lynedoch, friend and colleague. Whatever role she was called to play, there was always one constant: her own fierce independence, and from that came her intelligence, her perspective and her love.
Joanna’s death leaves a hole in the lives of all who knew her, especially those who saw the immense courage and unfailing dignity with which she battled the illness that blighted, but never spoiled, her last few years at College. She was a true inspiration to everyone whose lives she touched, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire Wellington Community are with Anthony, Jessica, Susannah and Adam at this time.
A book of condolences will be placed in Reception from Friday this week should you wish to write a personal message.
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