What a School!

Jimi Awosika, (SJC 574 1967-71) Group CEO Troyka

I arrived at St Joseph’s College, Ondo early in January 1967 on what was an unusually cold Friday evening filled with trepidation but somewhat sure that I was not going to enjoy my time in the school.
This should be understandable.
I was just six months shy of 12 years, had never been out of home, had lived all my life in Lagos (at a time when Ikorodu Road was in the Western Region), had a somewhat sheltered life up until then, and even though a citizen of Ondo town had before then never spent more than a total of thirty days in the town; and this included the six days when I had to write the entrance examination and the follow-up interview into the school. On all the occasions when I had to be in Ondo except for the aforementioned days that I sat for the entrance examination and the interview for admission into the school, both my parents were around. I was decidedly unhappy.


In tow, I had an oversized pail (a size 32 as against the prescribed size 28), an oversized cotton mattress (a 4ft 6in by 6ft as against the 3ft 6in prescribed), and an oversized ego to boot! In the course of my stay in school, all three caused me much grief, the first two though not as much as the third which inevitably was the first and only one to be cut to size.
Settling into my assigned room (Austin 3) was easy (I had help from the most unexpected quarters from a senior, Benjamin Ayisire who looked just a little older than me but was in fact a Form 5 student!).
The same, however, could not be said for settling down.
Within forty-eight hours, I had had run-ins with close to a dozen seniors mostly in Forms 2 and 3. The guys gave no quarters and took none! From being asked to kneel down to weeding, cutting grass, and ultimately being ‘arraigned’ before a tribunal which sat in Aquinas 4 and was headed by a very popular Form 5 student, things were to my young mind getting out of hand. I applied to a boarding school, not a borstal I reasoned!
I had to call for allies.
Senior Patrick Fasusi (A P..a Pele) was about the only one I knew before I got into SJC. Tall, handsome, loved by all mostly on account of his excellent human relations and footballing skills, he was in my view, the perfect person to ‘rein in’ these guys. I spoke to him and instead of listening so I could understand the set-up of a boarding school, I went around telling anyone who cared to listen… ‘Be careful, you’ll come to grief if you don’t back off; Senior Pele is my college brother!’ You can surmise that this did neither Senior Pele nor myself any favors.
Monday morning after breakfast, we were herded to class. I was placed in Form 1B and within the course of the day, had received lectures from Brothers Alphonse, Albert, Mr. Marc, Mr. Akinrolabu and waited for it, Brother Bernard, the principal!
Things were beginning to match my expectations. This was a school after all! There were teachers, they were knowledgeable and very pleasant.
After lunch, we were told that it was time for siesta (what’s called that?) not by any teacher but by a senior student who was called the House Prefect. After siesta, we were led out with our Bush Machetes (‘Lala’) by a student called the Labor Prefect to the lawn in front of the main school building and apportioned spaces to be cleared. Thereafter we were told that it was time for sports, and we saw the Sports Prefect marshaling guys out to the front and backfields. Not to be outdone, the Bellhop (Senior Ebunlade Betiku) kept everyone reminded that there was a specified time for everything. Dinner, the almighty Chapel, sleep, and waking! In between all of these, I had many infractions, each visited with severe punishments that I thought it necessary to invite the intercession of the principal. Brother Bernard listened attentively, told me he understood my predicament, and in sympathy issued the ‘comforting’ words.’ my boy, obey and then complain later. Did I hear right?
While I clearly understood what he advised, I did not feel obliged to follow the advice and the punishments came in torrents. At the end of the week, I was on the Troublesome 20 list in his office! I had not been told that the gentle giant, the ever-approachable Brother Bernard was not one to be trifled with!
His word was law!
Friendly counsel came from some sympathetic seniors mostly in Form 5; ‘be careful boy, you might be on your way out of this school’ they admonished.
I realized that I had to see things with the right lenses.
Beautiful the environment, intense the teaching, this was no place to misbehave. It was a colony of laws and though mostly unwritten, they were administered by the leaders of the school including the Form 1 class captains!
I needed no goading, I had to start behaving right.
And I started enjoying my time in school.
Suddenly getting up at 6 am to go to the Chapel was not an effort anymore, the hymns were soul-elevating and Brother Bernard’s weekly homily was something I looked forward to.
I started making friends across classes and on outing days went with my friends to their homes in town and enjoyed the hospitality of parents who were more than happy to entertain their sons’ friends. Then came March and talk was all over the place about St Joseph’s Day, the March 19th fest that then was the most important date in SJC’s school calendar. Preparations were afoot and for a week before the day, the school was agog. Some seniors had been dispatched to a farm in Oke Ogun to purchase the cows and save mass on the said day, everything was organized and executed by the students!
It was a real blast. The organization was impeccable; the event lavish. Aside from the delicacies served at lunch (on normal days, each meal at SJC was a cut above the average in most homes then), each student went away with three chunky pieces of delicious fried meat.
With clipped wings and the resultant clear eyes, I was beginning to see the beauty in the school and the good in other students even those I initially had little affinity for. I saw wisdom, intellect, goodness in the most unlikely people, classmates, and seniors. And talent? Profuse and prodigious!
In sports, academics, debating, nurturing, managing, leadership, name it. The school not only had a way of identifying these in prospective students, it deliberately nurtured them when they got into SJC.
1967 was a particularly unique year. The Form 5 students led by their urbane Class Captain Senior Fola Adunola and the Senior Prefect Senior Benson Oruma demonstrated camaraderie and courtly manners. Brilliant individually and as a group, each one bar none was a leader of men. The Olu Akintades, Benjamin Ayisires, Frank Thorpes, Peter Akinjiolas, Olusegun Awosikas, Augustine Akinwoleres, Yele Akinkuotus, Ebunlade Betikus, Gbenga Ogunniyas, Muyiwa Johnsons, Benson Akingbojules, Edward Osunsades, Fola Adunolas, Benson Orumas, Gabriel Adegokes, Jide Omiwales, Adebiyi Adesidas, Edward Akingohungbes, Olukunle Oyewoles, Olu James, Femi Fowodes, et al were a study in intellect, humaneness, good manners, and good breeding.
Theirs was a class par excellence and they laid the example for the following sets.
In sports, the school excelled in both the Grier Cup and AAA for athletics, but it was in football that SJC truly came into its own as a powerhouse. The football team was captained by the skillful Frank Thorpe at Centre Back and peopled by Muyiwa Johnson in Goal, Francis Obe (Right Full Back), Gabriel Adegoke (Left Full Back) Augustine Idemudia (Right Half Back), Cornelius Odi (Left Half Back) Dotun Lofinmakin (Outside Right) Olu James (Inside Right) Patrick (Pele)Fasusi (Centre Forward) Benson Oruma (Inside Left) and Jide Omiwale (Outside Left) mowed down every opposition and but for the sanction evicted by the football authorities would definitely have made it to the finals of the Thermogene Cup in Ibadan that year! They played the most entertaining football in that part of the Western Region and had a daunting and rugged mentality.
It was a 12-man wrecker’s squad!
The 12th member, Gbenga Ogunniya (Ekpe Rollinco), the self-appointed Team Manager was no less endowed. What he lacked in athletic and footballing skills, he more than made up for in courage, belief and a mordant tongue which in full deployment would make Adolf Hitler and Kwame Nkrumah sound like cubs! Their success and distinguishing style of flowing football built up the attack from the back with pincer movements that choked the opposition defense from the sides allowing the superb dribbling duo of Patrick Fasusi and Jide Omiwale to deliver the goals time and again was applauded by all opponents but Ondo Boys High School.
They had hitherto ruled the roost and were not enamored of some new stars bent on upsetting the status quo.
It was our summer of ’67! And did we live it in the sun!
Soon word started filtering out that a certain gentleman, a much-loved Reverend Brother who had been on study leave would soon be returning. Just about every senior boy had something good to say about the gentleman. He was equated to everything that was good. He was said to be highly intelligent, with excellent listening skills, a great mixer, highly perceptive, jovial but firm. We were told that he was much younger than the current Principal but no less passionate about the physical, intellectual, mental, and emotional development of the students. The prospect of having this paragon of humanity join an already outstanding community of the most dedicated, most selfless, most passionate teachers and spiritual leaders led by the highly disciplined but avuncular and indefatigable Brother Bernard created a sizzling atmosphere in the school all through the second term and well into the third. The arrival of a Dean of Discipline (the first in the history of the school) in the person of Mr. Dapo Aliba initially got everyone’s back up but soon things returned to normal.
That Brother Thomas would rein him in was a consolation to everyone.
Late in the evening on a particular day, a few weeks into the third term, there was this din around the house grounds…Brother Thomas was back! Some seniors were out on the front field and had seen him coming out of the Chapel and along with Brother Bernard was headed for the Brothers’ residence.
The atmosphere was electric, comparable to the anticipated return of a World Cup-winning team. Even though I was impressed with the excellent reports about him, I could not, as my seniors, be overboard in my expectation as I had not had any previous interaction with him.
The next morning, we went to classes, and soon we saw this slightly portly, balding gentleman in cassock walking along the corridor in the company of Brother Mel, the handsome guitar-playing minstrel. He walked with a spring, covering more than anyone with his moderate height would.
Even at that distance, I liked him instantly.
‘Wait till you get close to him and you will see what a nice guy he is’ said Senior Pele when I saw him later on the house grounds and gushed about seeing Brother Thomas he had spoken so lovingly about.
And Brother Thomas did not disappoint him.
My first interaction with him two days after his arrival told me I was dealing with a man who, as against students, saw us as his wards and was keen on embedding himself in our lives. Earlier in the day, he had visited our class as part of the process of taking over and each one got up to introduce himself…Ransome Ayisire, Francis Ojo, Cornelius Fakinlede, Simeon Fadipe, Adelana Adesida, Yinka Omiwade, the names rang out. Fast forward seven hours later, I was enroute to the Austin House bathroom from the school well when I heard ‘Jimi, hurry up. You’ll be late for dinner!’ What? I thought; that’s the new principal! How did he recall my name?
I was not ‘My boy’ I was Jimi.
I mattered!
Then started a close relationship that I just like every other student, had with Brother Thomas and over time came to take for granted. He was everywhere on the compound, house grounds, school compound, sports fields, dining hall. Either in cassock and leather sandals, short-sleeved white shirt on Khaki shorts and leather sandals or vest and shorts and flip flops, he was the ubiquitous one and the constant all through the five years I was in school. Aside from the dog who sometimes accompanied him on his evening rounds, his other two companions especially post-school hours were the black rubber pipe conveniently tucked inside the arm of his cassock ready to be deployed to deal two sharp whips on the errant student and his massive torchlight!
He rendered the Bellhop jobless as promptly at 6 am, starting from either Austin or Claver House when the only noise around was the sound of the crickets, the familiar voice would ring out ‘rising time, o ya o, everybody, wake up!’. Thirty minutes later, starting from Aquinas House, he would be going from room to room rousing the late risers and herding everyone to the Chapel.
There was no escaping him!
For those suspended, there was no hiding place. Not a few of the daring ones who broke bounds and headed for town, most times to Rex Cinema have tales to tell of Brother Thomas emerging from nowhere either at the cinema or on the road. By the end of 1967, he moved the Principal’s office to the former Aquinas House behind the Basketball court and the whole building became the administrative hub of the school housing along with his office, Brother Alphonse’s dispensary, and the Staffroom. From his office, he had a full and direct view of the school building, the laboratories, the Chapel, and the dining hall.
It was clear that the second phase of the development of the school and its transformation into a premium, integrated human capital development, and center of learning where leadership and cultural development were critical pillars, was afoot. The school’s reputation as a leading performer in the West African School Certificate Examination was now established. This was helped by the stellar performances of ’64,’65, and ’66 (’65 being a stand-out year with one of its students Mutairu Oyeneyin aka Ajiteru scoring 7 indices). Thereafter, it was taken for granted that at least one-third of any set would end up with Grade 1 in the School Certificate exams.
It was a season of ‘teacher don’t teach me nonsense.
The students were as expected of good teaching as the teachers were capable and demanding of the highest level of performance from the students. While this might appear to most as expected, it was the consequence of thorough and long-range planning by the La Salle Brothers who saw the intellectual, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development of their wards as their prime responsibility and gave all to the mission. For them, it was not a job, it was a calling, it was life. Somehow, they were able to infect all the teachers and non-teaching staff with this higher-order value.
Looking back now, while we did not have too many teachers with anything but a first degree, we had the most dedicated and somehow the standard of pedagogy was extremely high. Whether it was Brothers Romwauld, Bernard, Thomas, Alphonse, Albert, Mel, John or Messrs Ola, Marc, Akinyosoye, Edema, Akinkuolie, Jegede all of whom then had first and second degrees or Messrs Ogundele, Aworinde, Amadasun, Ojo, Adegbulugbe, Ademulegun, Akinrolabu, Akinkoye, Ivbijaro, Adare, James who then had NCE certification or were aspiring university students, the students got quality teaching and sometimes personal coaching as required.
It is important to point out that at the material time being reported, the last nine of this most distinguished cohort (Kenneth Amadasun, Valentine Ojo, Johnson Adegbulugbe, John Ademulegun, Olu Akinrolabu, Ajibike Akinkoye, Mathew Ivbijaro, Thomas Adare, and Frank James) were outstanding past students who had either just finished their A levels or were about to go to university! The program of bringing back brilliant old students as teachers helped mentorship and built aspiration in the students. I can report that I not only was inspired by these old students, but I also developed a lifelong relationship with some of them.
It was however not only about studies and sports. Being a Catholic school, we were subjected to religious instruction both as a course of study at school and daily practice in the Chapel. Whatever topping was needed was provided by Brother Alphonse who took any opportunity through his actions and homilies to rear us right. In my view, if ever there was a candidate for sainthood, my lot will be cast for Brother Alphonse.
As against what now prevails in our national life, choice of religion was free and the school even promoted it.
Moslems were encouraged to go for Jumat prayers on Fridays and Christians of other faiths were free to attend service in the churches in town on Sundays but daily prayers in the chapel were mandatory for all students. And did we enjoy mass and the choral classes provided by the handsome and debonair Brother Mel! Advent was bliss in school, what with the beautiful Christmas carols that belted from happy students singing in the school chapel.
Not one to encourage in-breeding, Brother Thomas opened up the school to local cultural influences. Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola, and other top drama acts of the day staged performances in the school. Saturday nights were for entertainment and when not provided by a professional actor, the students staged drama and dance shows most times with music and equipment supplied by Baba Frank Awosika (the No 1 DJ in Ondo in those days) and not being a co-ed school, we danced ‘bone-to-bone’.
Here I will have to relate how the school band that was initially christened The Phagocytes but later became The Psychedelics came to be.
It was late 1969, Gbenga Akinribido (Siphan Salah) had just been named Senior Prefect and my main man Funwa Ogunniya (God bless his great soul) became the school’s first Social Prefect. This fine Saturday evening, Funwa, Kofo Fashina and I were miming Eddie Floyd’s Knock On Wood and other Soul songs that were being played on the Rediffusion box in what was then known as ‘Palaver Square’ next to the dining hall. It was the heydays of Soul music and WNBS had an hour every Saturday evening dedicated to playing Soul songs. It happened that Brother Thomas was walking past and he stopped by to watch the ‘performance’ we were obliviously putting up. He called Funwa and me aside and asked if we thought we could start a school band. It initially sounded like a joke and I remember Funwa telling him just that. Undaunted Brother Thomas repeated the question (it actually sounded more like an offer) and seeing that he was serious, we answered in the affirmative.
Fast forward some two months, Brother Thomas invited us to his office, and out from a bag came a brand new acoustic guitar (for those reading this some 53 years after in a relatively more prosperous world, this would seem a simple thing to do but I am talking of 1969 when acoustic guitars cost about fifteen pounds and tuition plus boarding fees for a year was fifty-five pounds)! Expectedly, we were shocked but delighted. We knew Brother Thomas took every word of his seriously but we never expected this to come to be so soon.
Now the joke was on us. We had to put together a school band! The only decent guitar player in the school was Diran Akindeji (Alan Steel) but he was not an all-around guitarist as he was more comfortable with bass chords. What we had was an acoustic guitar with a different scale length and the musical role and needed a different technical and conceptual approach. Make do we had to, so we started rehearsals initially in the dining hall and soon we had a huge crop of fans led by Brother Thomas himself who would later metamorphose into our band and booking manager. What we lacked in personnel we more than made up for with creative improvisation.
In reality, what we had was an Acappella group with a guitar backing. To aid our singing, Brother Thomas got someone to bring in a microphone, a portable amplifier, and a loudspeaker from Ibadan. While the performances especially the singing improved, the guitar got drowned by the amplified singing and it became apparent that we had to resolve this problem. Off we went to Brother Thomas. He thought about the challenge and came to the conclusion that we needed a pickup mic for the guitar. This he promptly got us.
We had come a long way but we were still far from where we wanted to be as a band. We sounded very much like a country music band than the soul/pop band we wanted to be. Our de facto leader and the one who as the Social Prefect gave credibility and legitimacy to the band, Funwa Ogunniya was now in his final year and though still very enthusiastic about the project, had his attention divided. The lot fell on me to make a representation to Brother Thomas for additional equipment. This was in 1970 and we had been joined by two highly skilled multi-instrumentalists Soji Fajemirokun and Femi Fasehun, both of whom were in Form 1.
The addition of these talented boys sort of made the pitch easier but I never expected a positive response from the principal. If I at any time in my life ever felt like an Oliver Twist, it was at that meeting with Brother Thomas.
He listened attentively, said nothing all through my long winding ‘speech’, and when he felt I was done, looked up and said ‘Jimi, go back to your studies’.
That’s it, boy, you’ve burnt your bridge, I thought.
For the next few days, I was really down and avoided the band and anything that had to do with it. Funwa’s consolation and that of Victor Asekunowo (Dr. No) another great friend of mine did nothing to lift the pall of despondence I felt.
About three weeks later, Baba Agbebaku, the school clerk told me that Brother Thomas wanted to see me. I had since the last meeting in his office avoided him and this time around did not look forward to being in his presence. As I walked into his office, he looked up and said, ‘Jimi, tomorrow you and I will be going to Ibadan to buy the new equipment for the band, so prepare for the trip. We will leave after breakfast.
How I made it to my room and through the night I still do not know. My joy was not really because we were going to buy the music equipment after all; it was the fact that contrary to what I thought, Brother Thomas was not upset about my outlandish request for expensive new equipment for the band.
As arranged, the next day, a Saturday, we left for Ibadan after breakfast in his Peugeot 404 station wagon, and after a three-hour journey that seemed like 30 minutes, we were at Kingsway Stores in Dugbe where we bought an electric bass guitar and a full drum kit. We then headed for Rational Bookshop in Oke Bola where we got an electric rhythm guitar, a power amplifier, a new microphone and stand as well as a loudspeaker. We then headed for the Cocoa Dome at Cocoa House for lunch before driving back to school.
The Psychedelics had arrived!
In 1970, the band was led by Funwa Ogunniya (and later me ) with Diran Akindeji (Alan Steel) on bass guitar, Femi Fasehun on guitar, and backing vocals, Soji Fajemirokun on drums and backing vocals, Adelana Adesida on maracas and vocals, and I the lead vocals. It was a very tight band, and I can say without any intention of being self-deprecating, that I was the least talented of the lot and only owed my membership and later leadership of the band to the fact that I knew most of the songs and possibly my earlier exertions on behalf of the band.
The Psychedelics became the toast of the town with concerts played at St Monica’s Grammar School, St Helen’s College, Adeyemi College of Education, St Louis Girls College, and Aquinas College Akure. Even though Aquinas College had a more mature and sophisticated band, they no doubt acknowledged and commended our musicianship and the quality of the sound. And all of this, just because one man Brother Thomas believed in us and committed the resources needed for the band come to life!
You will have to forgive me if I give the impression that 1970 and the following year 1971 was just about studies, cultural and musical exploits. The ’69 football team led by Dosu Doherty and the ’70 team that had Ebenezer Adenusi (Jackson) as its attacking arrowhead were simply a marvel to watch and but for the fearsome Ondo Boys High School team of 1970, that year’s SJC team would have gone down in history as second only to the ’67 team to have gone through a whole’s year’s campaign without any defeat.
Early 1970 saw the arrival of a young, tall, ebullient, and intelligent agricultural science graduate from the University of Ibadan as a Biology teacher. He knew and could teach Biology alright but the young man, Mr. Kokumo Akinkuolie, a former student of the school, was more interested in getting us to see agriculture in a new light.
With the encouragement of Brother Thomas, he set up the Young Farmers’ Club and proceeded to set up a school farm and a piggery. Soon, enlistment was more than expected and every evening you would see the ‘young farmers’ either headed for the cassava farm or the piggery for work. He brought in about a dozen piglets mostly sows from UI and before you knew it, we had a thriving piggery. The pigs were fed with the cassava we harvested from the farm as well as leftovers from the dining hall and right before our very eyes became full-grown. I had never seen pigs that massive in my life!
All this was well before the Government poisoned the well by taking over the administration of schools, they neither founded nor had the capacity to manage.
Well before our many years of the locust as a nation.
Well before the need was replaced by greed and service to man was replaced by service to self.
Even after all these buffetings, the school on the hill that the La Salle brothers built and the students they nurtured still stand as both a testament and tribute to the highest of values, Service. These were men who gave up the comfort of Canada, one of the most advanced countries of the world and still today, one of the best places to live on earth to serve the less privileged.
As wards of these great men, the least we can do is to emulate them in all we do, if only from now on!
Happy birthday, our very dear Brother Thomas and thank you as well as all the other La Salle Brothers for your love and service.
Long may you live in comfort, good health, happiness and contentment.

Love of Students

Robert Adewole, 1960 to 1965. SJC # 153, Banker, Retired Senior Manager

Brother Thomas McCrea dedicated his time at SJC to students. Even beyond the boundary of the college, he went out of his busy schedule in 1974 to meet with old students in Washington DC. It was a remarkable reunion /meeting in the apartment of Senior Olaseha, where the group picture below was taken.

AdewoleBrother Thomas with former pupils. Washington D.C., 1974

This attests to his humility and concern for the well being of his students

The “Snake Catcher”

Frank James(1962-66)

Managing Director of a Real Estate development company based in Lagos.


I remember Brother Thomas as probably the youngest of our beloved Reverend Brothers who were responsible for administering St Joseph’s College, Ondo. He was of average height and had blue eyes. Brother Thomas was always smiling even when he was in the process of disciplining an erring student. You would therefore be grossly mistaken to take his boyish and friendly look for granted if you ran afoul of school rules. He absolutely hated it when you lied.
I remember Brother Thomas and Brother Bernard (as well) quietly showing up at our dormitory windows in their white cassock after lights out. Many of us used to get caught in the act of not going to bed when we were supposed to. I remember Brother Thomas as the ” snake catcher”. I used to marvel at his dexterity in capturing live snakes that ended up in the biology laboratory. He absolutely loved digging up snakes.
I once as a lucky member of a group of about four students went on an expedition with Brother Thomas to the Eastern part of Nigeria during the holidays.

Frank Segun James, 2020
We drove in the Brothers’ car and stopped at interesting places on our way to Asaba. We swam at a river on our route, sang, ate, and had loads of fun for about a week. Brother Thomas loved nature. He used to take groups of students on nature walks in the forest surrounding the school.
From this brief record of life in St Joseph, Brother Thomas along with the other Reverend Brothers did a good job molding the academic and moral development of all students of SJC. Many of our old students have turned out in various fields of endeavor and attained the peak of their careers. We owe these Reverend gentlemen a lot of gratitude.
Brother Thomas, at 90, I wish you a most wonderful birthday and pray God grants you many more years in good health.

The LaSalle Legacy

Francis Ojo (1967-71)

Francis Ojo
Brother Thomas, all these years have refused to fade away from memory. How can any of us write our memoir without a mention of him, Brother Bernard, Alphonsus, or Mel? His long white catholic robes, signposting his mission in Africa and by extension, on earth, his rustic black locally made rubber sandals, signifying simplicity and humility, his early morning herding of our youthful rebellious members to the Chapel. And oh, that funny ‘judicial intervention in the Zorro versus School case to prevent the rustication of ‘Zoro’ Akinbulumo. It was not until later years, further recollection and reflection that one began to understand, appreciate and marvel at the purpose of the De La Salle order, and the implementation of their mission to rescue minds and morals.
Today, as we celebrate the gift that Brother Thomas meant and still means to us, it is apposite to send the De La Salle a strong message of gratitude. Brother Thomas and the order achieved their purpose and though I do not fully know the mission statement, I am convinced that they achieved their aim substantially. They converted many souls to Christianity, developed minds intellectually and morally, left an indelible legacy in lessons of humility and sacrifice in service
I am convinced he is, today, a very happy man. I hope he finds us part of the source of his fulfillment as he was foundational to the successes we have recorded. I hope we can further his happiness by extending our own personal opportunity to others the way he did his.
St. Joseph alumni have been very successful in leadership and followership positions in Government, Clergy, art, and the professions. Without the early intervention in our lives, one wonders how much of this success we would be discussing today.
On behalf of myself and my other two older brothers, Joseph Ojo, Stephen Ojo and our family, we thank Brother Thomas for his God-ordained service to Africa, we thank God for the gift of long and useful life and wish him many more years of happiness and grace.

The Profile of a Blessed Man: Brother Thomas McCrea

Bimbola Oladapo (SJC 1961-1966) Senior Prefect, 1966

Writing a Tribute to someone of Brother Thomas’ status, who I hold in high esteem, has posed a great challenge to me. This is more so as one is forced to recall memories of more than 50 years ago. These were indeed our formative years when our bones were not calcified. Brother Thomas came to our lives as a mentor, teacher, playmate, comic star, and above all like a father who took good care of his numerous children. Indeed, He came, He saw, and He conquered: this latter saying summarizes his sojourn in St Joseph’s College, Ondo.

BimbiBimbi Oladapo, 2021

It’s impossible not to remember the numerous youthful pranks we all indulged in and how he thwarted most of our escapades and pranks. Brother Thomas was also part and parcel of every recreational game and had beaten us in most of the games. We owe our success first to God, but Brother Thomas played a significant part in molding our lives. He is indeed an enigma, who poured all his God-given energy/endowment into all of us at St Joseph’s College, Ondo. He indeed channeled our lives to a successful path.
May God bless you abundantly. Let me end by leaving you with Psalm 37: 37…”Mark the perfect man and observe the Righteous, the end of that man is peace.” This is indeed your profile as a man of God.
Please join me in wishing our indefatigable mentor, Brother Thomas, happy 90th birthday celebrations. Happy birthday Sir and blessings galore!

The Fortune of a Family Tree

Ebunlade Oladele Betiku, (SJC 332, 1963 – 67). Chartered Civil Engineer, with over 49years of postgraduate experience in both field and design office practice and still working as an Individual Road Infrastructure & Contract Management Consultant.

BetikuEbunlade Betiku, Form two pupil, SJC 1964
Rev Brother Bernard and Rev Brother Thomas worked, hand in hand to bless me and the Betiku lineage in a way that changed the lives of the entire family for good.
Having noticed that I was gifted but not from a rich family, they invited my father, GF Betiku, and Rev Brother Thomas took a personal interest in overseeing his training to become first an Accounts Officer and later the school Bursar. They also assisted my father by paying about 50% of my school fees. They continued paying my bursary even through my Higher School Certificate course at the Comprehensive High School, Aiyetoro.
With the Government taking over of Mission schools, my father was absorbed into the Western State Civil Service. He was later transferred to other schools including Gboluji Grammar School, CAC Grammar School, and even Institutions in the present Ekiti State. He became empowered and could train not only me but my other siblings who would have probably dropped out of school or been forced to learn some trades.
My success in the WASC at St Joseph with nine A’s (11indices) which was the best in Ondo and environ that year (1967) inspired many of my siblings (I am from a polygamous family and have over twenty siblings) to not only attend St Joseph but to also choose Engineering as their career.

One of the experiences I remember with excitement was the time our Class captain (3rd year or so) wanted to scapegoat me by ordering me to report myself to the principal for noise making. There was strict discipline, so I had to obey even though I was not the only one talking.
Sensing some bad belle in the matter, both Rev Bernard and his Vice, Rev Thomas told me to come with them on a weekend excursion to Benin city. We stopped by the popular natural stream at Ifon for a refreshing swim and had a wonderful time that weekend. I can never forget the affection my family and I enjoyed from Rev Brother Thomas and the love showered on me by my schoolmates at our distinguished Institution, St Joseph’s College, Ondo.
I am eternally grateful.
God Bless you all and God Bless our mentor Rev Brother Thomas.

Ode to that great man

Francis Kehinde Awosika. SJC 461 (1965-1969) Senior Prefect 1969.
Nurse Practitioner Director and CEO Kenvic Healthcare PLC (Home Visiting Physicians), Eastpointe, Michigan, USA.

Brother Francis Thomas McCrea, yours is a life that excellently reflects a commendable service to humanity in the course of your long stewardship at my Alma mater, St Joseph’s College, Ondo, Ondo State, Nigeria. As a young man, you turned your eyes away from the glamor of the Canadian social life with all the accompanying youthful attractions. You chose instead, to come to the comparatively rural Ondo town (now a city) in dedication to, and in absolute

submission to the will of God. Consequent upon your humble spirit, and in total disregard for your own comfort, you worked tirelessly and selflessly, and you successfully nurtured hundreds of Nigerian adolescents to attain lives of fulfillment in their adult years. I vividly remember how, in your signature short pants, you would parade the school campus day and night to ensure an enduring peaceful learning environment. I can never forget your expertise in catching snakes which to a large extent, helped to get rid of dangerous snakes that would otherwise have constituted hazards to resident students. The opportunity for me to acquire secondary education, despite my humble background, was resultant of your magnanimity. This early benefit paved the way for my life success and eventual relocation to a better life in the USA with my wife and children 22 years ago. A true man of God you will forever remain, Brother Thomas. I salute and celebrate you on your 90th birthday anniversary. I wish you many more years of glorious and healthful existence. May the peace of God almighty continue to abide in you.

These Lines salute you not because thou art a
great ruler of people but it sings your praise
because thou art a Great Leader of People…
As Our Comrades would put it “Whom the Cap Fits”…
Like Da Vinci, Like Hippocrates…
To You do we etch these Salient Lines…
Lines that Honor men that dance to the drumbeat
of the Spirits…
Men that see above the Alps, To Men That See
Through do we Chant these Odes…
We Lift up Voices We Lift up our Waists…
My Good Friends do come and dance to the Health
of this Great Man

Anthony Edmond John

Exceptional Motivator

Olumuyiwa (aka Kido Boy) Anthony Olawoki, PhD (SJC 5371966 – 1971)
Managing Geoscience Consultant, Geospectra Nig Ltd. Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.

KidoBro Thomas is well-noted and respected for the early morning dormitory rounds to wake students up for morning Mass in the Chapel. Can you recollect that black water hose pipe? Carefully tucked into the long sleeve of his cassock. One friendly spank of the pipe will wake you up and get you into the open bathrooms within a minute. In Austin (Augustine) House, our senior Supo Omo”awo” had plenty of such spanking, because he will sleep sound and deep until Bro Thomas will arrive to wake him up!

I came to closer contact with Bro Thomas when I had a fracture on my left arm during a football match. Himself and Baba Bro Aphonsos “Leturee, God bless you”…our local Medical Director got me to the General Hospital as possible as they can. A Plaster Of Paris (POP) cast was fixed within 2 days, for the next three months for the bones to heal after the fractured bones were set to touch each other. Every level and form of comfort were provided by our caring Bro Thomas and Baba Leturee.
Bro Thomas and our dear Late Mr. J.R. Ola (Geography Teacher) worked with my parents to make sure that I did not continue my education in Form 3 with weak grades and low scores. So I enjoyed the rare privilege of being promoted from Form 3B to 3A in the following year, belonging to two sets…the College Entry 1966 set, and College Graduation 1971 set (guess I am still correct with the dates!!! ). Bro Thomas was always around my classroom to check my academic performance…and made sure I was not having USAID milk and gari in my knicker pocket during Prep.
Who can recollect the SJC football match at Akure in 1970? I think we played against the Teacher Training College. Correct? Bro Thomas got me to play the “Left In” position for a part of the football game. How I earned the position, I don’t know. Stature-wise, I was small compared to the others. The singular opportunity implanted in me the “You too can do it” spirit and eventually has become my driving force. It was a great motivation. Occasionally, I joked with my children that I played a football game for my school as if it was not just for about 30 minutes only during the entire Secondary School days.
During the WAEC period in 1971, an issue occurred. The WAEC representative, Mr. Gbago from the Lagos office suddenly showed up in the Examination Hall, and on a random search, a textbook related to the examination in progress was found in my locker to the surprise of all of us, and the School Authorities. How the textbook got there I don’t know, and I’m still wondering till now when I remember the issue. Bro Thomas carefully informed my parents of the incident and began to work the issue with WAEC that I will be the last person to cheat in the examination. He forwarded my school results for Forms 3A-5 to WAEC to support the school’s case and position. The Late Mr. J. O. Ola also engaged my parents, reassuring them that the issue will be resolved. Fast forward, WAEC did not release my results and that of another student with a textbook in his locker. Bro Thomas helped to gain admission to Aquinas College Akure for HSC using my GCE London results. THANK YOU, BRO THOMAS, FOR THE SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT DURING THE TRYING TIMES IN THE 1971-72 PERIOD.
Happy 90th Birthday anniversary celebrations. Many glorious returns of the blessed day. LONG LIVE BRO THOMAS, LONG LIVE ST JOSEPH COLLEGE (SJC)

The “Omnipresent” Thomas!

Isaac Akinboyewa (SJC 531: 1966-1970)
Texas – USA

IsaacIt is with great respect and from the deepness of a sincere heart that I wish Reverend Brother Thomas a successful celebration as he turns 90 this year 2022. Brother Thomas was the Principal of Saint Joseph’s College in Ondo, Ondo State of Nigeria (SJC) while I was a student in the Secondary School from 1966 till my graduating year in 1970. He was also the English Teacher in my last year.
Bro Thomas belongs to a group of the admirable set of characters that can be described as totally committed to love, caring, nurturing, and development, a group of people that are driven by God-given pursuit of quality and devotion to sincere development of the young generation to which I am personally blessed to have tremendously benefited from. I would personally describe the set as the nicest and the finest examples of honest, humble, and dedicated teachers in our world today. The list of this set of schoolteachers in our youths cannot be complete without mentioning other school leaders like Rev Brother Bernard, Rev Brother Alphonsus, and Mr. Ola. A set of honest disciplinarians and devoted persons, detailed in their dealings, devoted to their course, and purposeful in their plan, they find enthusiasm and fulfillment in their calling. Brother Thomas belongs to that set.
As students we were young and always behaved like youths. However, the strong but gentle and firm guidance of Brother Thomas saw us through those developmental ages. We hardly realized it then as we do today. SJC was a comparatively large school, on a large expanse of land with 2 soccer fields, with several student resident dormitories and a very large number of students, yet Brother Thomas knew almost everyone by name and could identify almost everybody by face. He was always around us. I remember he would take part with us on the Sports Field to play, in the Chapel to pray, work through the dormitories at siesta to see whose beds were vacant and going through all the classrooms at evening study sessions to identify those who were not in class. So close was he to everyone and everywhere that he would be privy to everything and anything amiss? Sincerely as youths then, we hated the closeness and the serious scrutiny at that time because like youths we wanted our own freedom and there was always something to hide no matter how trivial, but later realized how great a commitment and how industrious that was as we finished in SJC and moved on to greater experiences of life. Brother Thomas was always there, surprisingly unexpectedly several times, all to keep us in good check. Thank God I had a First-Class Hon. degree in Computer Sciences (University of Ibadan) and I am now a Computer Database Administrator in America but I can never forget the impact Brother Thomas had in my personal foundational and fundamental development. I will be forever grateful to him.
To the Almighty God be the Glory for his exemplary integrity and exquisite qualities. May the Almighty God continue to sustain and strengthen our own dear Principal (Reverend Brother Thomas) for longer life still, in good health and blessed peace, now and forevermore in Jesus Mighty Name Amen.
The “Indefatigable” Thomas
The good words to describe Reverend Brother Thomas and his lessons seem unlimited. I have earlier written Article 012 on my personal gratitude and prayers for him. I am submitting a second Article to describe two or three of my personal experiences with him to corroborate what others have presented. Is there anyone that had worked across the path of Reverend Brother Thomas that has not had a personal experience with him in a way that will impact life? I bet none. Everyone has had that personal experience and I do too and in fact a number of times. Here I am presenting two or three of them.
1st Incident – The “Unbeatable” Thomas
1970 was our final year, the senior year, which craves into our heads that we could do anything and get away with it. After all, no other senior class was above us to put us in check and no exams were in sight to cow us down. Moreover, the only people we feared were the Teachers and the Principal. Luckily the Teachers were not always there. We were in the boarding school and no Teacher stayed after school hours but guess who was there to be afraid of. And he was always there, O Yes, morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Well, we could at least gamble for the night because you wonder if Brother Thomas ever slept in those days. Okay, so far so good, we had a chance because this incident was in the night, a late night.
We had earlier heard that a new Hot and Deadly Chinese Movie had just arrived to be shown in a town called Coon Ka Coon interpreted as Blood for Blood where they would fight, kill and die. It was to be shown in the only Public Theater, the Rex Cinema, in the distant town center about five miles away from school. No cars, no bikes, and no mobility of any sort, but for us, that distance was only a dash to trek, especially when we had an event of great interest.
Hmmm, youths as we were, we really loved to watch those. And while school was in session, only Brother Thomas could stop us. O Lord! we yearned, “Let Brother Thomas have asleep, at least tonight”.
Everyone who dared decided to go to the movie and so we encouraged each other. The deal was to get every junior student warned to keep his mouth shut if the principal ever asked. I was afraid too because my uncle would be terribly mad to hear and my mom would cry her eyes out. But how can one miss such an interesting movie? I yearned and mumbled that prayer one more time for reassurance as we summoned great courage – A man does not die twice, aha! The die was cast (positive). I followed the multitude. Almost half of the senior class left that night to watch the movie showing from about 7.30 pm till about 9.30 pm. We moved into multiple groups.
We walked briskly and ran fast. Oh, we must have walked those five miles in five minutes. The Theater was packed full. It looked like every youth from every secondary school and all interested adults in town were present to watch the deadly movie. Getting a ticket at the entrance was like dew falling from the skies, hot, humid, sweaty, and noisy amongst long disorganized queues. However, with some patience and struggling we all seem to have gone in through that one major entrance, though with many inside standing having no more empty seats to sit. But Thank God we must have sighed that Brother Thomas was not there and no junior student had the gut to tell. Unfortunately, as youths, we had not thought through and we had forgotten that our empty beds were enough to betray us. Surely Brother Thomas could never have missed that.
Truly it was a very interesting movie. It was action-packed at every moment even though we did not follow or understand the story. A beating or a drawn sword drew great applause even before the actual strike. There was blood everywhere in the movie and the audience followed with a show of fists in support especially when the Bad Guys showed up. Everyone shouted, howled, yelled, screamed, and giggled. The concentration was superb. So, we successfully watched the movie to the end, and it was definitely interesting to us all. However, what really happened after was unexpected and very disruptive. Right at the entrance, everyone was struggling to get out of the main exit door and that was expected for the multitude. However, are we hearing Rev Brother Thomas was at the entrance? What? How did he get there? So many questions were running down our mouths and minds. Was he there before the movie ended or was, he just arriving? How did he know we were at the movie? How come he did not come into the theater? Could we disguise or how do we disguise? Were there any teachers along with him? Nobody could tell but … Look, that is not important now. The only thing that is most important is to see how to fly back to school and lay in bed. Hey, what were we going to do? The school was a good five miles away on the outskirts of town with only one terminal road eventually leading there. The whole place was in confusion as everyone tried to smuggle themselves out and disguise themselves within the huge crowd. Heeey the “Omnipresent” Brother Thomas only needed to sight your face at a distance, and he knows you by name. You had to stoop down amongst the crowd, NO that is not enough, you must run, I mean you have to fly over the buildings, over the roads, through the bushes, and by whatever means just get back to the hostel and be on your bed, pretending. It was a “scatter- scatter – get your ass out of the way if you could not fly enough”. That was a long night, and the Indefatigable Thomas was equal to the task.
He had caught a few students and arrested them in his car. For some of us yet physically uncaught, it was like animals running for dear life at the sight of a hungry lion. We ran like never before. About 3 miles away at a narrow river Bridge called Lisaluwa, there we sighted the strong light from a car. We knew it was Brother Thomas. Heeeey into the thick bush along the dangerous riversides, many of us dived. At least if you were not caught in the act, you could have a chance to deny it. We knew Brother Thomas must have seen us through those powerful headlamps but surprisingly he did not stop as we expected. He just sped past like he never saw us. Then we knew we were in big trouble. We knew he was speeding to dash through those hostels and dormitories. He knew us vividly, not only facially and nominally, but he also knew details of who sleeps in which dormitory and on which bed. Well, we knew him too, our invincible unbeatable insurmountable indefatigable Principal. We knew he was racing to go check who was missing on his bed at the hostel and we were sure there was no more hiding place for us. Yes, we knew him, we knew his way, we knew his methods and we knew his expectations of us. Just that we hated being so closely monitored, not knowing that those were wrong approaches to a successful life.
So he took his census and went home to rest, I guess he applied the Words of the Lord – Tomorrow would take care of itself … Mathew 6:34 – … for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
Did I not say it was a very long night? Oh, we thought, we wished Tomorrow would not come. Let the day not break yet. Finally, the next day was judgment day. Everyone he caught and he caught every one of us, either physically or missing from your bed last night. Everyone had to defend themselves. The tricky and smart always had something to say. Like a defensive Attorney and a Balanced Judge, if your defense is reasonable, coherent, and cannot be otherwise proved wrong, you go scuff-free. The weak, the inconsistent, and the defenseless must be disciplined. You need only a few to be seriously punished to serve as an example and deterrent to a whole city, not the whole city. That is the way of Reverend Brother Thomas. In the end, I was lucky to get a “Two Week suspension.” And I would never do that again.
2nd Incident – The Eagle Eye
I thought I said I would never do that again. Yes, but this is a different circumstance, it’s not a movie. Moreover, this one happened before the first in chronological order. In both cases, there are lessons to learn from our tireless passionate Principal.
This occurred while I was in Year 2 (1967), already a beginning senior who should know better than nothing escapes the eyes of Brother Thomas. He seemed to have an eagle or perhaps a third eye, I am serious. That day was a Saturday. One of the upper seniors had asked me to go fetch a pail of water for him in the morning. While completing the task, the bell rang to gather every student at the assembly, so I had no time to wash or take my bath, well so I thought. And who cared anyways about always bathing. We were all Boys in the school, no girls to show off to and no fashion to display. The only occasion that thrilled us to be properly and perfectly dressed up then was any visit to Saint Louis College, our Sister Catholic School. Oh, we would do anything to look our best, perhaps even borrowing some perfumes from friends for a superlative display of sight and sound. But this day was none of those, hence I did not care to even brush my teeth, after all, time was against me. So, I dressed up in a hurry to meet up with other students as they walked down to the assembly. Brushed no teeth, took no bath but wearing a well-ironed dress for the Teachers would notice that outwardly. However, and worst of all I wore no underwear pants (briefs).
Hey, who would even dare look back when Brother Thomas is walking behind us? He was coming behind and urging several dozens of students to double up to the assembly, yet he did notice it. “Why did he suddenly single me out to follow?” I started wondering. O Lord, what have I done? Well, perhaps I needed to walk faster so I doubled my pace. He moved faster and closer and closer. The faster I moved, the more he did to close up. Close enough, he gave me the First slap with an open fist in my buttocks. I am like “Oh! what did I do?” No questions so I moved faster still. He moved swiftly again and gave me a Second slap, harder than the First. Now I knew I was definitely in trouble but what was my problem? I tried running, thinking I was not fast enough. Then he ran quickly and pinched my bottom through my body and bones. Huh that hurts!
So now I had to stop to look at my Judge, standing in front of him with a guilty appeal for mercy, though I was yet to understand what was my sin? Then he simply looked at me eye to eye, then looked at my Bottom. He did that a couple of times like 3-4 times, and I got the message – It was not proper to wear no underwear briefs whilst in public. Sincerely I got the message and my head hung down in shame. The great Teacher, Brother Thomas never said a word then nor thereafter, but the lesson has been learned. Please don’t ask me if I ever did that again.

Promotion, Training, and other Surprises

Professor Matt IVBIJARO (1962-65)

I salute you, Rev Brother Thomas McCrea, an astute student administrator, a builder of youths, a distinguished teacher of the English language.
I am Matt IVBIJARO, SJC, 1962-1965, fondly known as Lobito; a retired Professor of Agricultural Entomology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria; an Environment consultant and author of books on the Nigeria environment.
When I came to SJC, Ondo in 1962, Rev Brother Thomas was the Vice-Principal. Towards the end of my first term in 1962, Brother Thomas informed me that SJC had decided to promote me to form 2 in the second term. He asked me what the reaction of my friends would be. I told him I would be glad to accept the promotion. At the end of 1962, Brother Thomas informed me that I had been offered the Western Region Scholarship for being the best candidate at the entrance examination to SJC.
In my form 3, 1963, Brother Thomas requested if I would be willing to be appointed the laboratory assistant in charge of the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics laboratories. I gladly accepted. I was responsible to Mr. Ian Beatty, our Chemistry teacher though a geology graduate. Beatty taught me how to catch snakes alive. We both began to catch snakes for the biology lab. He even brought a live python. We also caught a chameleon.
In the same form 3, Brother Thomas assigned a mower to me for cutting the track and field in front of the college whenever there would be an athletic event.
During the long vacation in form 4, 1964, I received a letter from the office of the Principal, Rev Brother Bernard to attend a 2-week Citizenship and Leadership Training Course at the Man O War Bay, Shasha close to Omo Forest Reserve. Along with me was a classmate whose name I cannot recall now. Brother Thomas gave us a pep talk before our departure. It was a highly demanding course physically and mentally.
I graduated from SJC in December 1965. In 1966, Rev Brother Bernard offered me a teaching appointment with my West African School Certificate. It was an incredible offer.
Brother Thomas welcomed me warmly to join the teaching staff. I was determined to make good of this opportunity and prepare for the Common Entrance Examination to the University of Ibadan.
Brother Thomas and late Rev Brother Bernard gave students responsibilities to prove and develop themselves.
You may wish to know, dear Brother Thomas, that a good number of SJC students who passed through the crucible of human development by you and Rev Brother Bernard are now at the helm of affairs in their various professions.
We celebrate you, Brother Thomas, and send our 90 hearty cheers to a quintessential visionary on his 90th birthday 🎂 anniversary, March 2, 2022.