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The Fond Memories of Dr. Charles Henn

Above is one of the last photographs taken of Sister Elizabeth with some of her former pupils at the RIS Fun Fair, Soi Ruamrudee, March 28, 1991. Surrounding Sr. Elizabeth, from left to right, are Nopadon Pibulvetch (Class of ‘71), Boon Liang Phuapankul (Class of ’72) and Dr.Charles Henn (Class of ’72).

Plenty of RIS alumni have gone on to become notable figures in society, but none of them have forgotten the fond memories they experienced while being a student here. They can always remember the school that helped lay a foundation that added to their inspiration toward pursuing their dreams.

Dr. Charles Henn is one of them. As a member of the graduating class of 1972, he is one of the oldest active alumni to remain in constant touch with his childhood friends and teachers. He can still remember the names of all his homeroom teachers from first to twelfth grade as well as the teachers who taught individual subjects. Dr. Henn’s accounts of his days at RIS are as vivid as they are plentiful.

Back in those days, RIS was located in Soi Ruamrudee off Ploenchit Road. The campus was small, with most of the buildings surrounding a central courtyard. “The very young pupils could see their future teachers and the older pupils could see their past teachers just by looking across the courtyard,” Dr. Henn recalls. “What a sense of togetherness! What a feeling of warmth and security! We felt this at the time but could not explain it because we were too young.”

However, what Dr. Henn considers most memorable was the spirit that permeated the campus, a spirit generated by those who taught at and ran the school. The teachers were all hand-picked by the priests and nuns from among the Catholic congregation which led to a strong bond of understanding between teachers, administrators, nuns and priests.

Dr. Henn explains that as a Catholic school, educators were committed to teaching pupils to differentiate between right and wrong. He himself is not a Catholic but agrees that all religions point to these basic values. “Being taught Catechism at a very early age gave us a moral compass that helped us find our way through the morass of decisions and difficulties that are part and parcel of life regardless of whether we were or are Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists or of any other or of no religion,” he says. “My contemporaries have all turned out to be thoroughly good people, without exception, and their awareness of good and evil has increased with age. That is no accident. It is the result of the seed that was planted in our young minds by those great teachers at Ruamrudee. “

Dr. Henn completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Buckingham, his Masters degree at the London School of Economics and his Doctorate degree at Cambridge University. He then became a professor and founding co-director of the MA in Global Affairs program at the University of Buckingham, where he taught International Law and Organizations for Diplomatic and International Studies. He is also a senior fellow at the Beloff Center for the study of liberty, a UK think tank. He currently resides in Bangkok and is now in property real estate and is a master of many trades.

RIS, of course, is no longer the small school located in Soi Ruamrudee. Today it sits on 26 acres of lush land in Minburi, where state-of-the-art facilities have been built to accommodate the expanding RIS community as the school modernizes with the 21st century. The school is now run by the fathers, in collaboration with professionals with extensive experience in the education industry, who maintain that the school’s Catholic missionary foundations still define the character of RIS as a union of hearts.

“What wouldn’t I give to be able to return, as old as I am now, to the early 1960s and sit in class and be in the presence of those teachers!” says Dr. Henn. “Father Travis is our last link with the old school and its priceless traditions that must not be lost or forgotten. To me at that time, I was just a pupil and all these people were just teachers. But the older I grow, and the more of life I know, the more I appreciate how fortunate I was to have been taught and brought up by the teachers, sisters, mothers and fathers at Ruamrudee.”