Rob Ferritto (2006-11) has become the fourteenth Old Haleian to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award supporting exceptional students from around the world to study at the esteemed University of Oxford.
The scholarship, first awarded in 1902, was funded by an education grant made available according to the will left by Cecil Rhodes, whose intention was to further harmony and compatibility between English-speaking peoples.
The first Hale School recipient to receive the award was James Leonard Walker in 1904. He went on to serve on the Hale School Board, was Solicitor-General and Senior Parliamentary Draftsman (WA) and Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court (WA). He is the same Walker who is featured in the Junior School House system; in fact, all of these namesakes are also former Haleian Rhodes Scholars.
Rob embraced his time at Hale School, working hard and getting involved in as many things as he could. He does concede that being good at sport as a new student to the School certainly meant that he was willingly accepted. He played tennis and rugby, did athletics and also took up debating and public speaking, which forced him to move out of his comfort zone – something he would encourage everyone to do.
“Fear of failure and failure itself is a good thing,” he said. “It helps you learn and grow.”
After having worked hard to achieve at Hale, Rob will be the first to admit that he ‘coasted’ through university having a good time rather than a productive one. So much so, in fact, that when he applied to become part of the John Curtin Leadership Academy he was unsuccessful. He was shattered and could not understand why they did not want him. It was a giant ‘kick in the butt’ but it was the catalyst he needed to refocus and reassess his situation – watershed moment if you will.
Spurred on by this failure, Rob forged ahead undeterred, involving himself in the Curtin Volunteers Programme among other things and eventually gaining access to the Academy. He was now able to access specialised leadership training and develop vital skills through working on real community projects.
Rob has always felt he had a responsibility to help others; that he was born into a privileged position and that if he had been born elsewhere his life could have been very, very different. He also believes that Hale School nurtured that sense of responsibility and that his time spent doing Service Learning, from Year 9 with the Montessori School, right through to his involvement with Nulsen and visits to the Solomon Islands and to Vietnam, has fuelled his ambition to create change.
Rob is honoured to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, which he knows will help him achieve his dream of helping others by creating universal access to clean water and sanitation.
“When families lack access to clean water in developing nations and remote Australia, children – particularly females – surrender their education, childhood and safety, to collect water and help their families survive.
“When communities lack sanitation, the vulnerable do not survive. My dream is to make access to clean water and sanitation universal, to even out people’s circumstances of birth and grant society’s most vulnerable the basic rights and opportunities I have.”
Rob, who has already completed First-class Honours in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) at Curtin University, will start a Master of Philosophy (Water Science, Policy and Management) at the University of Oxford next year.