After five years at New College, Arthur Stephenson (and his brother Stuart, also a teacher at New College) were persuaded to take their careers to Wesley College in Melbourne.

An economic downturn in the early 1890s had affected enrolments in some of Melbourne’s larger private schools (Wesley, Melbourne Grammar, Scotch College, Xavier and Geelong Grammar). Wesley’s enrolments had fallen below 100, staff salaries were slashed and some of its land leased.

Despite the gloomy economy, New College’s enrolments had remained healthy and the school seemed to be succeeding at a time when others were struggling.

Most likely, Arthur Stephenson’s sound economic management of New College had not gone unnoticed by the Wesley’s board of management who were keen to recruit him.

Dick Cotter, in Farmers, Ringmasters and Builders adds:

‘There was an added attraction: if Stephenson accepted, there was a strong possibility that he would bring some of his students with him. From Stephenson’s point of view the opportunity to become headmaster of one of Melbourne’s leading schools and to provide for his brother by taking him along was probably irresistible.’

Arthur Stephenson’s replacement at New College was John Ulbrich. He was from country Victoria where he’d been a prominent civic citizen and also headmaster of the privately-owned and academically-successful Maryborough High.

There is little record of Ulbrich’s more-than two years at New College. His term is poorly documented and no records exist at all for 1896 but it is thought that school faced difficult times during his leadership.

It’s also probable that with the departure of Arthur and Stuart Stephenson – and the 19 students who followed them to Wesley – Ulbrich faced a daunting task of keeping the school buoyant. He may also have struggled to match the popularity and level of community engagement that had been enjoyed by Stephenson.

In 1897 – and with Stephenson’s imminent return from an unsuccessful stint at Wesley – Ulbrich departed for a leading role at Hawthorn Grammar.

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