St John's College

Hugh huggett
Hugh Henry Huggett (Nash 1958)

Hugh Henry Huggett (Nash 1958) 13 March 1939 — 25 May 2024

St John’s College has suffered a grave loss of a revered Johannian with the death of Hugh Henry Huggett, an education activist and throughout his life, a man who followed the principle of Ubuntu in his varied and memorable career and in all that he had done.

Hugh was born into a St John’s College family and was the son of the famous Jack Huggett, a successful teacher and Officer Commanding of the St John’s College Cadet detachment.

Hugh’s father and mother were the driving force of many Gilbert and Sullivan productions, and this is where young Hugh received his first taste of singing in a choir.

During his school career, Hugh served as a Nash House prefect and a librarian, and he was also a member of the Art Club. Hugh served as the Regimental Sergeant Major in Cadets during the year when the detachment garnered several prizes. Hugh excelled in athletics, often winning the 100, 220 and 440 yards, all in one day, during meets against other schools.

During his final year, Hugh received colours for Hockey and served as secretary and captain of the First Hockey XI.

In the Johannian Magazine of 1957, an excellent Afrikaans article describing the elation and efforts of runners at a school athletic meet appeared —the only Afrikaans article in the magazine. Hugh was the author.

However, Hugh was destined to become an English teacher. During his headmaster’s Speech Day address of 1957, Deane Yates appealed to the boys of St John’s to go into teaching, citing the severe shortage of teachers in South Africa. Hugh heeded this call and studied education at Rhodes, Unisa and York University (UK), gaining the degrees BA, B Ed, M Ed, and a diploma in Educational Technology. Hugh taught at Jeppe High School for Boys and Pridwin Preparatory School and finally found a home at St Stithian’s College, where he served from 1969 for 33 years. During his time at Saints, Hugh coached Hockey and Cricket was a selector for Gauteng Hockey and served on the SA Schools Hockey Committee. Hugh toured the UK with the school’s Kestrels hockey team.

He was the English User Group Chairman and a marker for the IEB. In 1984, Hugh spent a year at York University studying English literature. Hugh became widely known as an inspiration to boys in the classroom and on the hockey field. The Facebook tribute page also recorded tributes from choir members and boarders. One quote from Kurt Viljoen reads: “Know that Hugh made an impact on many boys who had the privilege of calling him Sir…He made a difference”. On his retirement from St Stithian’s College, Hugh Huggett was lauded for his many interests in varied fields of school life, his hockey leadership, his leadership in the school choir, the founding of the Duke of Cornwall singers, and his constant amusing antics in the staff room.

After retirement, the indefatigable Hugh took on another challenge and taught at Sekolo sa Borokga, a Vuleka school, until December 2016. Here is another quote recorded on Facebook by David Vaughn Rossouw: “I worked with Hugh at Sekolo sa Borokga. He was undeniably the BEST English teacher I ever came across, and he was in his seventies then. I also sang with him in the Men in Red choir”.

After his second retirement in December 2016, Hugh Huggett continued to give to the educational empowerment of formerly disadvantaged youth. He continued his teaching career and mentorship at the Alexandra Education organization, founded by Deane Yates.

He continued teaching English at Saturday school there until 2019.

Paul Channon, Director of Alexandra Education, summed up a true picture of Hugh Huggett, the man: “A remarkable man and a legendary educator. He brought wisdom, humour, and compassion to everyone he interacted with. He will be sorely missed.”

Last year, when the Archivist called for help identifying obscure old photographs from the College archives, Hugh was there, always smiling and ready to work.

Hugh Huggett also found time to pursue his other favourite occupations—singing in The Welsh Men’s Choir and the Johannesburg Symphony Choir and meeting his past schoolmates at The Johannian Club for a monthly lunch get-together. He was also known as an accomplished trout angler.

The St John’s College Community extends its heartfelt condolences to Libby Huggett, his children, his grandchildren, and his brother Peter and his family.

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Hugh Huggett (centre left), Captain of the First XI Hockey Team 1958