An exemplary life of giving and caring inspires a generous gift for Friends’

In September 2019, community members Stephanie Reeves and David Reeves gave a transformational gift of $200,000 to Friends’ to assist with the upcoming Campus Redevelopment Phase 1 project. The gift was given in honour of their late mother Helen Reeves (Cooper) and continues a tradition of generosity by the Cooper family dating back many generations.

Cooper, the name remembered in one of the Houses in Morris, Friends’ Primary Years, recognises the contribution to Friends’ of William Carlyle Cooper, appointed as the first Chairman of the first Australian Board of the School in 1923. Despite the specific naming, it is also a way to mark the generosity of the Cooper family to the School through a number of generations.

The William Cooper Scholarship, awarded on merit to a student entering Year 7, was named in honour of William Livingstone Cooper, son of William Carlyle Cooper and a Board Member for 50 years, retiring in 1948.

William Livingstone Cooper’s children, Patricia and Helen, both attended Friends’ and in 1947 Patricia became the first School Librarian at Friends’. It was in Patricia’s memory that her husband, Doug Steane, gifted the beautiful land at Orford to the School.

Helen did well academically and in sport, particularly hockey and athletics. Her childhood included bushwalks, camping and visits to the Cooper family cousins in Sydney, all of which helped foster her love of the environment and the bigger world around her.

Having won a University Entrance Scholarship, Helen obtained a bachelor of Arts with honours in history.

Helen’s first job after university was as Secretary to The Friends’ School Principal Bill Oats. In 1954 Helen travelled to England where she worked at the Universities Association in Gordon Square, around the corner from Friends’ House in London. She travelled extensively through Europe before returning to Hobart in 1956 to work for the Registrar of the University of Tasmania.

At the end of 1958, Helen joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, with postings to Indonesia (where she first met her husband-to-be Peter Reeves) and later Brussels. They married in 1963 at Bourneville Friends Meeting House in Birmingham.

Ultimately Helen and Peter moved to Canberra where they raised their own family welcoming their children Stephanie and David. Peter passed away in 2007 and Helen in 2018 and it is in their honour that their children, Stephanie and David, have given a gift of $200,000 to the School to assist with the revitalisation of the built environment at Friends’. 

Specifically, this gift will contribute to the development of the new Year 7- 10 Learning Centre in the High School as part of Phase 1 of the School’s Campus Redevelopment. Teaching and learning has changed over time and this new Learning Centre will provide much needed additional, fit-for-purpose, flexible learning spaces that support current teaching and learning practice, ease capacity constraints and address disability access challenges.

Stephanie and David had no personal connection with Friends’ other than the moving memories and recollections of the School shared with them by their mother. Born, raised and educated in Canberra, ultimately Stephanie and David both moved interstate to raise families of their own. However both were deeply touched by the special place Friends’ held in Helen’s life, and the values it instilled. Helen and Peter’s home is lovingly remembered as a place of flowers, hospitality and friendship. Numerous family members and friends would stay and Helen devoted herself to the care of elderly neighbours. 

As Stephanie shared, “She was kind, engaging, and interested in others – and she made a huge effort to keep in touch with everyone – and they with her”.

Helen led an exemplary life of giving and caring and now the Cooper family legacy continues at Friends’ through the generosity Stephanie and David. Their contribution to the Year 7-10 Learning Centre, in Helen and Peter’s honour, will transform learning at Friends’ for generations of students.

We thank Helen and David for their generosity and vision.

Photo: Patricia Reeves (Cooper), top centre, standing; Helen Reeves (Cooper), seated third from right.