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03. Leslie Lino

posted Apr 10, 2012, 3:02 PM by Eddie Woo
Leslie Helen Lino was a gifted, amazing and inspirational person.  When she passed away on Sunday 28 August, James Ruse Agricultural High School lost one of its greatest influences.  It is impossible to adequately express just how much we owe to Leslie, not only for her work in the classroom but as one who was influential in helping develop the school’s traditions and ethos.
A foundation member of the staff, Leslie arrived at the school before its founding Principal, James C Hoskin and before it gained its present name.  She was employed as a teacher of her beloved French, but also taught Latin, English, Music and briefly, Mathematics.  She was responsible for the earliest overseas language trips at the school, taking two groups of French students to New Caledonia.
Leslie is best remembered for her involvement in the James Ruse musical productions, having been there with Colin Anderson when they began in 1963.  In the early years, she was the Musical Director and pianist, but in time, she became Director and Producer.  The annual production was a vital part of Leslie’s teaching year from 1963 until her retirement in 1987.  But that was not to be the end of the story, for she returned every year to take her place in the production team until finally bowing out with “Crazy For You” in 2003, after an amazing 41 shows!  The final years of productions were difficult following a major heart attack and bypass surgery in 2000.
We all need to understand the commitment that Leslie made to the musicals at James Ruse.  Based on a 40-hour working week, it can be confidently estimated that she spent the equivalent of more than three-and-a-half years (without holidays) in rehearsals outside school hours.
Leslie taught so many students a love of the stage.  She passed on the lessons she had learned from others, especially Colin Anderson.  Many have taken the skills and confidence they received from being on the stage at James Ruse and have carried them into their careers.
Leslie had a great gift when it came to casting students in their roles.  She always demanded a professional attitude – while the production team would joke that it would be “right on the night,” she never had the attitude that “close enough is good enough.”  She knew the value of a good chorus and demanded that they work as hard as the principals.  She always gave 100% to the students and expected 100% from them in return.  She was meticulous and would spend hours getting the little things right. 
Leslie’s contribution to James Ruse can be summarised in two words:  commitment and devotion, and these qualities rubbed-off on those around her and were an example to everybody.  She loved teaching and was very proud of her students, especially when a musical came together.  There is no doubt that countless individual lives and the life of James Ruse has been deeply enriched by knowing and sharing so much with Leslie Lino.
Alan Best

Students past and present, as well as teaching colleagues, joined with friends and family on September 5 to celebrate the life and contribution of Leslie Lino – a James Ruse staffer who retired from the school in 1987 after 29 years service.
The celebration for the life of Mrs Lino was led by her children Barry, Tricia and Peter who each contributed to an amusing, honest eulogy for their friend and mother.  They were supported by Professor Dr Colin Anderson who, together with Mrs Lino, pioneered what would become four decades of James Ruse musicals.
Such was the high esteem in which Mrs Lino was held that many of the leading men and ‘ladies’ from musicals staged as early as the 60s and 70s attended the service at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium.  Many came from interstate and most went on to a wake at the North Ryde RSL.
Today’s student body – represented by the Year 11 Jazz Ensemble, sang a glorious arrangement of the McCartney/Lennon hit “Yesterday” – provided a fitting and moving tribute.
Mrs Lino’s service was an opportunity for men now in their 50s, and who had not seen each other for over 30 years, to embrace and share their memories of her music, her sophistication, her occasional stubbornness, her boundless charity, her pursuit of excellence and her grade.
Mrs Lino provided many boys with firsts…their first taste of exotic foods, their first use of chopsticks, their first revelation of a musical spirit within them and their first taste for just a little fine wine.
Mrs Lino became close friends with many parents and she was admired and genuinely loved by the many lives she touched.
Pete Smith (1972)

some thoughts of Mrs. Lino ……..
although my Music teacher for my 1960’s High School years, I have always remembered Leslie for her musical director’s role in the Leslie Lino/Colin Anderson double of Gilbert and Sullivan productions.
Initially there is a vagueness that Leslie also taught some introductory French in First Year, but it was the Second Year when Col A arrived and the collaboration began between the two to bring to the stage the G&S production of “HMS Pinafore” – it didn’t seem so scary then, but 40+ years on the thought of getting First and Second Year students to slip into petticoats and frocks to play the female roles …….hmmmm!  thankfully an early shot of testosterone permitted me to keep my pants on.
In Third Year, an audition led me to the role of comic lead in “The Mikado” and as minor an event as it may seem, it became one of the defining moments in my formative years of adolescence, for it was from this time when the relatively socially-sheltered son of poultry farmers was given the opportunity to develop a self belief and self confidence (possibly misguided!) that has remained with me from that time.
Many, many extra-curricular hours were spent in Leslie’s home, rehearsing hour on hour, sharing time with other members of the cast, Leslie’s daughter Patricia (the choreographer with the greatest legs) and son Peter, and almost inevitably sharing an evening meal and occasionally a glass of wine! Which at times became less occasional……and once even quite frequent – an education indeed.  I imagine it would be very difficult to emulate those teacher-student experiences today!
Fourth and Fifth Years allowed me to continue this relationship through the productions of “Pirates of Penzance” and “Iolanthe”, and in Sixth Year in 1967 when I was told that my HSC studies precluded my inclusion in the cast of “The Gondoliers” there was a real sense of loss.
Since 1970 I have resided in New Zealand (Leslie’s country of origin, which is why it always sounded like she talked posh) and through Colin Anderson, ex-class mates and class reunions I have kept up with Leslie’s Life – my thoughts of her and her contribution to my Life are, like her, in a very Special Place.
Jim Jacobs (1967)

My first memory of Leslie was of this rather imperious figure gliding across the quad with her head tilted slightly up and her right arm cradling a cardboard box as she made her way to Room 5 (I think the old weatherboards were numbered 1 to 5).
My immediate reaction was “Damn, I hope I don’t end up with her!”
Just goes to show you how stupid I was!
Leslie Lino was that one teacher who transcended the role to become a mentor, guide, confidante, sounding board, conscience and most importantly of all, friend.
My time at Ruse started in 1974.  I was not the “brainiac” that some of my peers were and whilst I was able to hold my own in a very competitive environment I was not the happiest of little vegemites!
This is where Leslie came into her own.  She was able to draw out a talent or skill that was lying dormant, get the young person to recognise it, work out a “rough” and then polish it to as close to perfection as the young person could.
Leslie had the knack of building people up in a subtle way.  She was not overt.  Her suggestions were just that, suggestions.  She left it up to the individual to see if they could take it that step further, to see if it was a good fit.
James Ruse was a very masculine environment back in  my day and to participate in the musicals without also playing union or being in the cadets’ left you open to criticism (putting it mildly!).  Leslie made this OK.  She helped me realise that I was my own person and I should be less concerned about what others thought and more about what I thought about myself.
Travelling from Camden to Carlingford every day made it difficult to participate in the rehearsals, so Leslie rang my parents and offered to have me stay over on Friday nights for the principals rehearsals and then take me to the full cast rehearsals on Saturday afternoons at Ruse.
Friday nights were a blast, great company, good rehearsal and of course a great meal!  What teacher would feel comfortable doing the same or similar these days?  Saturday mornings were generally spent doing some yard work in her garden.  Back in the day I thought it rather overgrown and messy, now however I realised that it was an abundant garden, one that reflected the gardener to perfection.
After leaving Ruse I kept in contact with one person.  It was Leslie Lino.  The quick chat over the phone, the Christmas card or the occasional letter was our method.  Our contact was not constant, definitely sporadic and yet it was like we had never left off from the relationship we had started when I was her student.  She congratulated me on my marriage, gave advice on how to connect with stepchildren and was genuinely pleased for me when my daughter was born.  She was interested in my life and me.
The only recognition I received from Ruse was not academic;  it was for drama.  I cherish the Leslie H Lino Award because it represents to me what Leslie stood for.
I will miss Leslie.  She was the linchpin to that part of my life and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for her warmth, friendship and guidance.   Leslie Lino has a lot to do with who I am today and once again I thank her.
Grant McClafferty (1979)

In Year 7 French, Mrs Lino would sometimes tell us one week that we’d have a French test next week.  We had the drill down quite well.  When she walked in the next week and said “French test” we’d all go “What French test, you didn’t tell us there was a test!” – which successfully got us off the hook more than once.
One week she walked in and told us to get ready for a French test.  In near perfect unison, the whole class went “What French test?”.
Mrs Lino smiled that broad, Cheshire-cat smile, laughed… And we had to do the French test!
On a slightly more serious note, I appreciated her generosity – not to mention that of her daughter Patricia and Alan Best’s too, in putting together the school musicals,  That commitment meant Tuesday afternoon, Friday afternoon and night, Saturday afternoons and some mornings for a fair slab of the year – not to mention all the behind the scenes organisation.  Many of my best memories of school arise from those musicals.
Margaret Stuart  (1983)

It is sad to hear of the passing of Mrs Lino as she played a role in my life at school which I remember well.
She was my French Teacher in junior school at a time when teaching a language to young snotty kids would have sorely tested the most dedicated of practitioners.  She also taught at a time when technology was first introduced at the school to assist with Languages.
The “Language Laboratory” was a collection of headphones, leads and booths all somehow connected to Mrs Lino who, with her frozen smile, painfully endured the sound of my now enhanced French accent.  She would be saddened to know that my son is now inflicting similar pain on another generation of French Teachers.
Mrs Lino also arranged the music for the Gilbert and Sullivan productions at school and later became the Director of the Drama presentations.
I recall her involvement in Rudigore and the Mikado which were all outstanding successes. Unfortunately for Mrs Lino I had a singing voice similar in quality to my French accent and no matter of Technology made things any better.  To her great patience and generosity she allowed me a position in the chorus which I gladly took up.
I wish to extend my condolences to her family.
Peter Chaffey  (1973)

Memories of Leslie Lino – an enthusiastic French teacher (we had a choice of language of French or French).  She was easily sidetracked by one student in my class who took great joy in seeing if he could divert Mrs Lino into a topic unrelated to what the class was supposed to be discussing.  One fond memory I also had was bringing along delicious French food to class, and even having a French cooking day at her house.
Karen Hanselmann (nee Chudleigh)   (1988)

It’s funny how things go in full circles.
I was a lowly Year 7 French student.  I was also a rather naughty Year 7 French student.  During one lesson with Mrs Lino I was so naughty that she said, “See me at recess.”  I was dreading this recess meeting.
I approached Mrs Lino in her office, overlooking the School Oval.  I sat down in her office, and she asked me one question, “Have you considered trying out for the School Musical?”
I was shocked.  I was expecting a berating, possibly even a hiding!  I’d been naughty in class and here was this teacher asking if I wanted to be part of a Musical!?
I said that I would think about it.  I eventually turned it down due to sporting commitments, but the invitation stuck in my mind.  A teacher, whom I thought would not give me much thought, had taken the time to notice me and possibly some hidden talents.
This may have been a total reflection of Leslie Lino.  I took up the offer in Year 8, and I was part of the JRAHS Musicals all the way until 1st year university (in the band in Year 12 and Uni).
Some of you may remember my attempts to woo my own “wife”, Rosalinda, in the role of Gabriel in Pink Champagne (1989).  I remember all of the JRAHS Musicals that I’ve been involved in, including the first (Orpheus in the Underworld, 1986).
I’m thankful for the life of Leslie Lino, for noticing a young boy, who has now become a teacher who is attempting to notice the hidden musical talents in others.
Grant Mitchell   (1990)

I knew Leslie Lino, as many did, through several James Ruse musicals.  She was famous for keeping the cast under control with her whistle, and we always knew our preparations were looking dire when the dreaded whistle came out.  Once, when I visited rehearsals after I had graduated, she turned to me with a cheeky grin after a particularly harsh blow of the whistle, and asked me if I thought the cast hated her yet.  Another famous call was to “open your mouths” while you were singing, and I fell particularly foul of her on this count as one rehearsal I attended with a dislocated jaw!  Leslie Lino has been an institution in James Ruse Musicals, and will be missed by many.
Mitchell Isaacs (1998)

Layla Sumners (Wing) 1985