It is my pleasure today to address you about somebody I greatly admire: my wife. Although to some extent, it is oddly self-serving to speak in praise of one’s own spouse publicly. After all, the Bible calls us “One Flesh” meaning we are a singular unit. But praise is something Fiona usually finds difficult to accept, as part of her Scottish heritage, and I know I don’t do it often enough, so this is as good an opportunity to do it as it gets.
Fiona possesses four qualities I wish to share with you. Some may be known, some may be new to you.
First is her determination to be excellent. This determination manifests in many ways. One manifestation is, she has managed to home-school 3 children to academic excellence. Fiona had to overcome many obstacles in her pursuit of excellence in this field. Some of the obstacles included:
- Lifting her eyes beyond what was considered normal. At the time, home-schooling was not considered a viable alternative to mainstream education, like it is now. Fiona had to face down challenges from some well-meaning family members, church friends and mother support groups.
- Another obstacle was navigating the maze of bureaucracy to even be able to apply for exemption from the Education Act which compels all New Zealand children to be required to attend school. This was an interesting chapter of our lives. The Application for Exemption requires parents to promise to provide a level of education “at least equal to the average publicly available.” As it turns out, this wasn’t difficult for her to achieve.
- A final obstacle to overcome was determining, from the entire spectrum of Curricula available to us, which particular curriculum she would adopt. From Child-Centred-Learning at one end of the spectrum, right through to Classroom-At-Home, Fiona picked-and-chose those elements which she felt the children would benefit from, would be interested in, and were in alignment with our values.
A second manifestation of Fiona’s quality of Excellence, is her early choice of career. When I met Fiona, she was a Quality Manager of a large IT company. This was a highly responsible position. Her professional mantra of “process of continual improvement” became engrained into a large part of her personality.
A second quality Fiona demonstrates is Generosity. Fiona is generous in giving of her time, her talents and her finances. I’ve benefitted greatly from this quality. But not only is Fiona generous to her family, she is also generous to others. She has contributed greatly to Christian mission. She spent 6 months in Southern Africa in 1997, assisting with two Christian conferences, the African Evangelical Alliance first conference in South Africa and GCOWE, the Global Consultation on World Evangelisation. Fiona was learning to be a new mother of a 7-week-old baby, when we arrived in South Africa. That she was willing to also give of her time to these two Christian conferences is a testament to her multi-tasking ability!
Fiona has also given and continues to contribute to Shepherds Arms, an orphanage in The Philippines.
A third quality which Fiona possesses is Integrity. As a personal observation, Fiona demonstrates integrity in that her professional and private lives are wholly integrated. What you see is truly what you get with her. There is no hypocrisy in her. In fact, she would be the first to freely admit, she is usually unable to “play politics” in order to “just get along.”
A fourth quality which Fiona possesses, and the final one I wish to discuss today, is her dedication to Service. Fiona models this Toastmaster value constantly. Two examples are:
- Fiona has been a budget advisor with Agape Budget Advisory Service. This entailed completing their course to qualify, and then making herself available to mentor clients. Some clients were easier to deal with than others. Some people want to be helped, others don’t. Throughout, Fiona had to maintain a detached professionalism, but I know the personal toll it took upon her to see some clients choose to reject sound advice.
- Fiona helped establish a Charitable Trust for the purpose of administering a Christian Health Centre. The Capital Care Health Trust in Wellington would never have been established and operating since 1994, without Fiona’s determination and hard work. Capital Care Health Centre originally started as a pregnancy counselling service and then began providing General Practice services since 1997. The Centre is a community-based, affordable, pro-life health centre.
In conclusion, the Toastmasters values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence resonate strongly with Fiona’s own personal values of Excellence, Generosity, Integrity and Service. Just as the Toastmaster values handily may be abbreviated to an acronym of RISE, Fiona’s values E-G-I-S sound like the word aegis, meaning “the protection, backing, or support of a particular person.” I believe I could have no better person in my corner, to face life’s challenges with, than Fiona.
I am pleased to be able to recommend to you, my friend and life-time spouse, Fiona Hippolite.