Alumni spotlight: Stephen Wallis
Stephen Wallis was a pupil of Withernsea High School between 1948 and 1956.
In that time, he witnessed the move from the original school building (the present-day junior school) to the 'new' site in 1955. That same year, he became the new school's first Head Boy - a role which he regarded as a 'real honour'.
After leaving school with 7 O-Levels and 3 A-Levels he attended the University of Leeds. Two years in to his time at university he was 'invited' to 'start studying or leave..!' He chose to leave and decided to join 'the University of Life with H.M Customs and Excise' where he worked for the next 38 years.
He enjoyed a long and successful career as an investigating officer and the manager of a mobile unit. In later years, he wrote a new training course for officers entering his discipline. The course became accepted as the national model for training and he became the senior national instructor.
Stephen attended the school's 60th Anniversary Open Day in July 2015 where he spoke to Headteacher Richard Williman about his time at school and his role as Head Boy. On that occasion, Mr Williman expressed a desire to reintroduce the head student roles at some stage in the future. In February 2017, the roles were reintroduced and Mr Wallis was invited back to the school to present the newly appointed student leaders with their badges.
Stephen signed up to our Alumni not long after he attended the open day. His entry can be found below. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for visiting the school and for presenting our head students with their badges.
What memories do you have of your time at Withernsea High School?
'The best years of my life. Teachers who were hard taskmasters and made me work to achieve seven O-Levels and 3 A-Levels. I was idle but capable.'
'My teachers had my respect and some became friends long after I had left. There were a fantastic number of out of hours activities for which teachers freely gave their time and skills - especially sports, which were my first love.'
'Arthur Allot and James Hart took 17 of us to Guernsey on three to four weeks holiday, two years running in summer vacation.'
Who or what inspired you at school; who or what was the greatest influence?
'An excellent Headmaster and his staff within a happy environment.'
'Doug Beal (Sports Master) who taught me how to play hard with integrity and although you should always strive to win, lose gracefully. I learned that life is like sport - competitive. When Doug made me captain of the school teams, he gave me the first steps towards man management.'
'All the teachers who pushed me to the required levels needed to gain O-Levels and A-Levels.'
What part did Withernsea High School play in getting you where you are today?
'The whole part. Without my O-Levels and A-Levels I would not have been accepted for duties with H.M Customs and Excise - my only employers for 38 years. I never wished for a different occupation and I was always happy going to work.'
'The education I received at Withernsea High School was the foundation for my good fortune and also taught me to have respect and principles.'
Please tell us about your education since leaving Withernsea High School
'From January 1959 to March 1996 I was a senior officer with H.M Customs and Excise. For most of that time I was employed on investigation work and the management of a mobile unit. I examined and prepared cases for prosecuting, settlement out of court and decisions on monetary penalties - some of which were six figure sums. In my final ten years, some of my time was spent training other officers.'
Please tell us any interesting facts about yourself. Any claims to fame? Any personal achievements that you’re particularly proud of?
'I was asked to completely revise and reconstruct the five-day training course for new officers entering my discipline. This was accepted as the model national course and I became the senior national instructor for the course.'
'I was asked to address the 'BRAKE' organisation, who had input in to road safety, chaired by the late Gwynth Dunwoody MP and sponsored by Lord Atlee in the Palace of Westminster. Lord Atlee later gave my wife and I a tour of The House.'
What advice would you pass on to our students today?
'Work hard, play hard. Achieve what you are capable of within the rules. Consideration and respect for others. Stay true to yourself.'
Stephen Wallis with Mercedes Cook-Hannah (Deputy Head Girl), Alex Ogilvie (Head Girl), Sam Storey (Head Boy) and Richard Williman (Headteacher). 14th February 2017.