Man of cloth and school

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Family and friends have paid tribute to the founding principal of Wakatipu High who died aged 85. 

Rev Keith Robertson established the Queenstown school in 1975 and was principal for 10 years. An education block at the school is named after him. 

More than 300 attended his funeral at St Margaret’s Presby-terian Church in Frankton on Saturday, where he led services for many years. 

Rev Robertson had followed in the footsteps of generations of pious men stretching back to the goldrush and beyond by answering the calling to become a Presbyterian minister in Otago after retiring from teaching. 

From Dunedin, Rev Robertson had previously been deputy principal of Gore High, taught at Otago Boys High and also Milton District High – where he met his wife Margaret. 

Margaret says: “We both started teaching on the same day – I was in the primary and Keith at the high school. 

“I think what was brought out at the funeral was that he was a person who cared very much for his pupils. He would encourage them, use the cane if need be, but not very often. He was a good teacher.” 

During their 56 years of marriage, the Robertsons had two children, Margaret and Bruce, and six grandchildren. 

Rev Robertson divided his life between education and his faith. 

Margaret: “He’d always wanted to study theology so went to Knox College in Dunedin and did a Bachelor of Divinity, which was the hardest course, but knowing Keith that was the only way he would do it.” 

Rev Robertson, active in the Presbyterian church throughout his life, then spent five years overseeing the rural parish of Maungatua near Dunedin, before retiring for a second time and spending six years supporting ministers at the Chinese Presbyterian church in Dunedin. 

After returning to Queenstown, he spent the next decade or so leading services at St Margaret’s and St John’s in 
Arrowtown. He also ran family support services and singles’ nights, marrying two couples who met at them.
On retiring from teaching in 1985, the Department of Education thanked Rev Robertson for his “considerable contribution to education”. 

“As foundation principal of Wakatipu High you have guided the school through its formative years with vision and vigour. 

“Your philosophy of promoting the full potential of each student and your concern for each individual’s welfare has given young people in your care a quality education.” 

Rev Robertson’s interests included history, especially the history of Otago and Southland, and sports such as football and cricket. He coached several school teams, as well as the netball team. 

Son Bruce gave the eulogy at the funeral and grandson Bonar, 25, also spoke, along with Peter Chin, former mayor of Dunedin, and friend David Warrington. 

Rev Robertson died last Wednesday after a long illness.