Gary Wulf (class of 1996), Business Banking Specialist, ANZ Bank/ Social Worker for Spectrum Care Disability Service/ Security for Wulf Security Services
My name is Gary Wulf, I am of Samoan German/Chinese descent, grew up in Samoa and came to New Zealand when I was 10 years old for a better education. My years as a student at Liston College were memorable, setting a good foundation for the person that I am today. It’s been on my bucket list to re-visit Liston and give something back to the school. In May of this year, I finally ticked a visit off the list.
It was a privilege meeting Mr. Houghton again (my previous accounting teacher) after all these years as Margaret Hudson introduced us in the office reception. Thank you, Margaret, for showing me around the school on my unannounced visit – you’re a true asset to Liston College.
Re-visiting the school fields brought back memories – not of playing on them but of finding the trees or bushes that provided the most cover so my friends and I could eat our lunch in peace and see who had the best lunch to share. Since I was a student, there’s been obvious changes - the open plan double classrooms being one, where I saw my Year 7 nephew, Lachlan Wulf, at work. However, the Liston Chapel is one building that hasn’t changed and I’m grateful for that as it was my “safe” place, and I shed some tears as I walked out, reflecting on my time as a young Listonian.
I transferred from Sacred Heart College to Liston College in the 4th Form and remember the Principal, Mr. Huckle, saying to me with a smile, “Welcome to Liston. I know you will add value to our school.” At the time I didn’t know what that meant, until my final year when I was fortunate enough to help lead the school as a Prefect and Captain of Cook House. Well before that, however, I remember nervously waiting outside Mr. Huckle’s office for detention, along with my brother Pat and fellow classmate, Robert Moodie. Robert had a caring nature about him and a funny sense of humour, making Pat and me feel so welcome with his cheeky laugh. Unfortunately, Robert passed away in a car accident with his girlfriend in June 1996. Rest in Peace and Love, my dear friend, Robert. You always be remembered for just ‘being you.’
I would also like to pay tribute to my late nana, Toese Akata Siuea aka Mama, who passed away at the age of 90 on 30th May 2020. She was my biggest supporter. I’ll never forget her being at Prize-giving in 1996, my final year, when I was awarded the ‘Vujnovich Trophy.’ As soon as Mr. Huckle said, “Gary Wulf,” Mama stood up and clapped before he had time to read out what the award was all about. You were always there for me so “faafetai lava, thank you Mama, your legacy will live on.”
My first Form Teacher at Liston was Ms. De Souza. I admired her caring, no-nonsense attitude, telling the boys in our class to “keep quiet or else you’ll get detention.” She was right. Mr. Lay, my geography teacher, was another person I looked up to. One memory I have was being driven to Piha in his fast red car. I thought we were just going there for fun, but once we’d arrived, Mr. Lay gave us an assignment – writing several pages on what we had to watch out for at Piha Beach. Reflecting on the trip now, I realise that while Mr. Lay wanted us to have fun, he also wanted to make sure we put in the hard work as well. I’ve taken this on-board in my personal and work life to date. So, thank you, Mr. Lay.
Mr. Houghton, my accounting teacher was a great teacher who never gave up on me. In my 5th Form Year (Year 11) I got 48% in accounting and my dad wanted me to repeat the year as he said a pass in accounting would be useful to me. I remember feeling so embarrassed going back to school the following year, yet I’m grateful to Mr. Houghton and my dad for believing in me. Basic skills such as understanding a balance sheet have since worked in my favour in my current work as a Business Banking Specialist.
Other teachers I wish to thank are Mr. Chandra and Mr. Swanink (Maths), Mr. Norell and Mrs. Powell (English), Mr Doherty and Mr. Carroll (Form Teachers). And finally, Mr. Draper (School Counsellor). I will never forget the advice you gave me on both a school and personal level. Faafetai faafetai faafetai tele lava (Thank you x3).
In my last year of College at Liston, I wanted to do everything, so here’s a summary of achievements:
- Captain of Cook House, the overall winning house for 1996
- Prefect involved with the Halberg Trust, assisting kids with special needs
- Co-set up the Young Vinnies group with school mate, Tana Valeni. We visited rest homes and inmates at Paremoremo and Mt Eden prisons
- Represented Liston at MUNA (Model of United Nations) with my good mate, Eddie Bing
- Eucharistic minister
- Recipient of the Vujnovich Trophy, a special award, the first of its kind
- A leader in the Samoan Culture group alongside Head Boy, Ben Toleafoa, Tana Valeni, and Pat Morrow
After leaving Liston at 16 years of age I took a year off study, working part-time at K-Mart Henderson while trying to find out what I really wanted to do as a career. As I’d always been fascinated by planes, I went on to study Travel and Tourism at Unitec. While working at the Unitec Café I met my wife, Tina. We’ve been married now for 24 years and have with 3 teenage kids, a 21-year-old son and two girls aged 14 and 12 years who attend Marist Sisters’ College in Mount Albert.
After Unitec my first full-time job was as an Information Centre Consultant at Auckland Airport. During the weekend I continued working at K-Mart Papatoetoe, replacing stock during the night before the shop opened again the following day. Somehow, I also fitted in working as a Customer Service Consultant at AA – and am still working three jobs to this day.
For the past 14 years I’ve been working with the ANZ Bank, the last 8 years as part of the Business Banking team, ensuring the needs of new and existing business customers are met. I also have two casual part-time jobs, providing one-on-one support at Spectrum Care Disability Services, and security services at Archie Brothers in Newmarket and Holey Moley in Downtown Auckland. So, I’m not one to shy away from hard work – but also need to remember to look after myself along the way. I’m sharing this as with you all because I know there are a lot of stresses amongst our young men today, so please look after yourself. Your health should always come first.
Liston College has been an integral part of my life. My advice to current Liston students is to make the most of every good opportunity that comes your way, surround yourself with good people and with God’s help He will show you the right path. If you fall, get back up. Remember, it’s not how you fall, it’s how you pick yourself back up and keep going that counts. Life will throw you ‘curve balls’ along the way. Learn from them and work hard. Don’t expect everything to be handed to you. Believe in yourself and the plan God has for you.
I will leave you all with one final thought from a poem given to me in a wooden frame at Liston College alongside the Vujnovich Trophy. I look back at this poem from time to time, especially when I’ve had a bad day, as it says:
‘Believe in yourself and in your plan,
Say not, I cannot but I can…
The prizes of life we fail to win,
because we doubt the power within’
In Christ we live.
Soifua ma ia manuia