As Archbishop Duhig laid the foundation stone on November 17, 1963 he said, "I feel confident that there will be a big future for the school here, both in the number of pupils and the quality of education given." Three founding Christian Brothers arrived just three days before the first day of school on January 28, 1964. The first day for Christian Brothers College (CBC) Aquinas opened with 136 boys. However the real work leading up to this day stretched over a decade or so, with the founding group of ten or so fathers, supported by mothers of course, lobbying hard for the first Catholic Boys Secondary College on the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast then was at the beginning of a population explosion. In 1954 there were fewer than 20,000 residents and in 1966 close to 50, 000. By 1986 it exceeded 163,000. In 2014 it is almost 600,000. Southport parish was the first parish on the Gold Coast to recognize the need for a boys’ Catholic School. Star of the Sea Southport had been in existence since 1901, educating girls as both day students and boarders but there was no secondary Catholic school for boys. The sixties were a period of rapid and in some cases bewildering change in society and church. The Beatles, Rock n Roll, the threat of nuclear war, youth rebellion, the growing recognition of human rights, the drug culture, materialism and, in the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council, all provided a context and impetus for Aquinas College to emerge.
The then Parish Priest Fr John Duffy CM and the Vincentian Order of priests both fully supported the school, but it was Father Keith Turnbull CM as Parish Priest intermittently over more than fifteen years from 1964 who most strongly supported the College and the founding Christian Brothers. Parish fundraising, fully supported by Father Turnbull was crucial to the founding and development of Aquinas College and happened through Art Unions, raffles, BBQs, fetes and other social events.
The first Christian Brothers were led by Brother Bernard Murphy, first Principal and superior of the Brothers Community for six years from 1963-1969. Over the first decade up to eight Brothers were on staff and progressively other “lay” teachers collaborated with the Brothers in the College. The brothers lived in the Brothers House located on site, near Edmund Rice Drive. The Brothers were invited by Mr Jack Cronin, Gold Cost Council engineer, to name Edmund Rice Drive after Edmund Rice, the founder of the Christian Brothers, who started schools for underprivileged boys in Waterford (Ireland) during the nineteenth Century.
Brother Murphy and Christian Brothers of that era emphasised the value of hard work in all aspects of school life. Sport and exam results were stressed, as was the importance of “school spirit”. Pride in the College was very important then (as it is now), as can be seen and heard in the enthusiasm students today have when singing the school song, “Bordered by blue waters splendid.” Brother Murphy wrote the melody for this song and later modified the words for Aquinas College. The emphasis on singing and music in Aquinas College is a legacy of Brother Murphy.
Over the period 1970 to 72, Brother Remigius (Grif) Long, who had been deputy and sportsmaster since 1965, became Principal. He was a good friend and colleague of Brother Murphy. Brother Long was a mathematics teacher who taught almost all the senior subjects. Sport, especially Rugby League, was his great interest and contribution to Aquinas College and partly accounts for Aquinas’ commitment to and strength in Rugby League today. He still keeps in touch with numerous ex-students of the early years and has an ongoing interest in Aquinas College.