Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Stanislaus (Jack) Campbell (1904–1984)

by T. P. Boland

This article was published:

John Stanislaus (Jack) Campbell (1904-1984), Christian Brother and schoolteacher, was born on 20 May 1904 at Warwick, Queensland, and registered as Joseph John Bernardine, third of seven children of Joseph Campbell, a Queensland-born farmer, and his wife Catherine Elizabeth, née Shields, who came from New South Wales. Called John or Jack by his family, he began his education at Swan Creek State School. When he was 7 the family moved from the farm into Warwick, where he was taught first by the Sisters of Mercy and then by the Christian Brothers. He passed the senior public examination in 1920, and on 27 December entered the Christian Brothers’ Training College, Strathfield, Sydney. There he was thought to be clever, with an Irish bent for arguing. Tall and heavily built, with jet-black hair, he had a ready smile and a sense of fun. He made his first profession on 17 March 1921, taking the name of Stanislaus.

For eighteen years Campbell taught at schools in and around Sydney. Heeding his mother’s advice to teach the boys every day something that was not in the set texts, he embarked on a career in liberal education. In 1926-27 he lectured at Strathfield, while studying arts, majoring in English and Latin, at the University of Sydney (BA, 1929). He took his final vows and was professed on Christmas Day 1929. Sent to Queensland in 1940, he taught at St Joseph’s College, Nudgee, Brisbane, and was headmaster at St Joseph’s College, Rockhampton.

In 1943 Br `Stan’ transferred to St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane; his main fields were senior certificate English and Latin. All his talents and experience came together in his vision for the school. With his simple but infectious piety, he was to shape generations of students, whom he called `gentlemen of Terrace’, in the mould of Christian humanists. Known as `Doc’, he enthralled the boys with his recitations of a wide range of verse, from Shakespeare to C. J. Dennis, instilling in them a love of literature. A former pupil observed: `we saw a man falling in love with his subject every day’. A `fanatical’ follower of Rugby Union football, he was also sports master for many years. In 1959-64 Campbell served, unwillingly, as headmaster. Administration was not his métier; nevertheless, the school flourished under him, with much of the credit going to the talented staff.

A founding member (1959) of the Australian College of Education, Campbell was chairman (1964-66) of the Queensland chapter and was elected a fellow in 1967. In 1969-70 he sat on the William Radford committee which reformed secondary education in Queensland. Recognising that the world, and education, were changing, he feared that the humanism he had cultivated would be jettisoned and that the Christian element of the school would suffer. He was a vigorous contributor to the Conference of Catholic Education, Queensland. For thirty years a member of the local branch of the English Association of Queensland, he was president (1965) and patron (1972-84). He was appointed OBE in 1967.

That year Campbell became the first provincial of the new Queensland province of St Francis Xavier. Although he did not understand the personal problems of the younger Brothers, he set the province off to a good start. He saw teacher education as an important missionary activity and under his direction a novitiate at Helidon and teachers’ colleges at Indooroopilly, Brisbane, and at Wewak, Territory of Papua and New Guinea, were established. The model of a true Christian Brother, in 1972-74 he lived with the novices at Helidon.

After he nominally retired in 1975 a Celtic melancholy sometimes clouded Campbell’s innate optimism. Ill health curtailed his activities and he increasingly restricted himself to his literary and spiritual interests. He died suddenly on 9 November 1984 at Indooroopilly and, following a funeral in St Stephen’s Cathedral, was buried in Nudgee cemetery. His panegyrist summed him up in a phrase he always used of himself, `an incorrigible Christian Brother’. A portrait of him by Sir William Dargie, commissioned by Terrace old boys in 1982, is held by the school. Another portrait, by Br Don Gallagher, hangs in provincial headquarters, Indooroopilly.

Select Bibliography

  • T. P. Boland, Gentlemen of Terrace (2000)
  • Christian Brothers (St Francis Xavier province), Our Life, Dec 1984, p 1
  • Christian Brothers Educational Record Necrology, 1989, p 758
  • Campbell papers (Christian Brothers archives, Indooroopilly, Queensland, and St Joseph’s College archives, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane).

Citation details

T. P. Boland, 'Campbell, John Stanislaus (Jack) (1904–1984)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 May, 1904
Warwick, Queensland, Australia


9 November, 1984 (aged 80)
Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.