A Tribute to Mrs Susanna Naylor

Posted on 31st Oct, 2019

Pupils, staff and parents attended a special service in the cathedral yesterday to honour our Head of Science, Mrs Naylor, who died in a road accident in South Africa during half term along with her husband, Chris, and a close friend.  Whilst Mrs Naylor had only been teaching at the school for six and a half weeks, she was already a hugely valued member of staff and was an exceptional teacher of Science.

Headmaster Richard Murray paid tribute to Mrs Naylor, saying: “Her wonderful sense of calm and poise ensured that her lessons were models of productivity while her warmth and focus upon the individuals in her class meant that all the pupils knew that she cared for them and their achievements. We feel immensely privileged that she taught here and she will be sorely missed. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family.”

Dr Joel Callow, Susanna’s younger brother, said: “The family are truly grateful to Christ Church for making Susanna’s final working weeks so happy and fulfilling. She was delighted with her new job and was welcomed into a warm school community with open arms. This is a great comfort at a difficult time.”

Yesterday's service in memory of Mrs Naylor opened with everyone singing Abide with Me, after which Head Boy, Archie, read 1 Corinthians 13, 8-13. The Chaplain, the Revd Philippa White, said prayers and the choristers sang Howard Goodall’s setting of The Lord is my Shepherd. Mr Murray gave a eulogy in which he told boys that Mrs Naylor was “...the sort of person that I think we should all aspire to be, whatever path we decide to take in our lives.” The full text of the eulogy is printed at the end of this article.

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, who attended  yesterday’s service, said today: “Everybody at Christ Church is devastated by the sudden, tragic loss of Susanna and her husband Chris – and also Miranda – who was killed in the same accident. Susanna had only been teaching at the Cathedral School a short time, but had already made a great impact on all the pupils and had quickly become a much cherished and greatly valued member of staff.

“Our hearts go out to family, friends and colleagues who have lost such a wonderful woman, mother and fine teacher. We will be holding the Cathedral School in our thoughts and prayer even more intensely in the days ahead. And we wish to record how much we share in everyone’s grief at this time.”

Mr Murray’s Eulogy to Mrs Naylor

Mrs Naylor had only been at Christ Church for six and a half weeks – in the history of a school which is 490 years old, that really is no time at all, but there is no question that she made the most of her time with us. It’s true to say that she had already made a huge impact on the teaching of Science, on the rest of the staff and on the pupils. I am sure that all of you will have your own personal memories of her and I hope that you will think about what they are and treasure them. They are likely to be small, little incidents perhaps, but nonetheless they are now very important.

Mrs Naylor was very clever indeed, something of course which was obvious to all of us but which she didn’t ever boast about. She had not just one degree from Cambridge but two and could have been a scientist or a leading doctor. But she spent a lot of time abroad in places such as Lebanon in the Middle East where she worked with her husband doing charitable work, helping to ensure that the environment was improved for those who lived there. She could have done so many things but it was a great privilege to you and to many other young children in this part of the world that she decided to become a teacher and because of all the wonderful things that she did in her previous school, was known as an exceptional Science teacher.  I was so excited therefore when she decided to come to interview here.

When Mrs Naylor arrived, Mrs Fisher and I went to watch her lesson and it was truly a model of teaching. It was one of those lessons towards the end of term when there are lots of distractions and interruptions, when people were coming in and out for music lessons, but she remained completely calm and gave a wonderful lesson on eating and diet where we all learnt so much. In it she showed so many of the qualities which we were all beginning to get to know. She was calm and composed and yet she also knew exactly what was going on, being able to focus on all the individuals in the classroom, and it was clear immediately that everyone respected her, she was warm and encouraging, making everyone feel that they had something to contribute. During the course of this term, she managed, while establishing an atmosphere of creativity and fun, of experiments and practicals, to convey a sense of focus and calm where everyone could concentrate. It was clear too that everything about her was carefully done. She always took great care over her appearance - she seemed to sparkle - and there was always a sense of light and quiet energy about her and when one spoke to her, her face lit up; her classroom was a model of order and purpose – in fact everything she did, she did with care and thought. She was someone who had the ability to have a real effect on everyone around her, to make a huge difference, without ever seeming to impose herself upon others. She was, in her own quiet way, very powerful, perhaps because she rarely asserted herself.

It’s very important for me to say this to you because not only do we wish to honour her but she is the sort of person that I think we should all aspire to be, whatever path we decide to take in our lives. The best teachers are those who are in teaching because they care about what happens to their pupils, who wish to make a difference to those they teach and whose love for their subject affects everyone – all of these things could be said about Mrs Naylor and we are all very privileged to have known her, even if for a very short time. But as Mrs Naylor showed us, one doesn’t need very much time to have a very powerful effect. Living life properly is about living it with purpose and care, of taking time to think about the impact one is having on others. No wonder she was admired by the  staff who had come to know what a fine teacher she was. Knowing how much she cared about your achievements and work, I’m sure that what Mrs Naylor would have wanted us to do today when we get back to school is to go about our lessons in as creative and engaged a way as possible. I’m sure that’s one of the best ways that we could honour her.

Another thing I wish to say about Mrs Naylor is that she was very happy here at Christ Church. When her brother phoned me up yesterday to tell me the news he said that he was so grateful that she had enjoyed her time here so much and that she was excited about the future.  She had brought two of her grown up children into school to show them where she worked, she was going to bring her sister in this morning with her, and her husband had accompanied her to look after the choristers a few Sundays ago. She was happy because of the welcome she received from staff and because of the way that you boys behaved in her lessons and she did tell me how much she liked teaching you. It’s always desperately sad when someone dies before their time, and it’s very difficult for any of us to make sense of it, but when someone has led the sort of life that Mrs Naylor has, there is so much to be thankful for. We know that her life was not wasted; we know she affected the lives of so many in such a positive way and we know she was happy here. For all of those things we must give thanks and we must praise God for the wonderful blessings that we received from her and rejoice that she found, in this school, a happiness and a home at work.

In the reading, read so well by Archie, St Paul talks about the way in which we will only become fully ourselves in the life after death, that place where Mrs Naylor and her husband are now.  He also tells us that the greatest gift that we can give is Love. We are a Christian school and we believe that death is not the final ending and that gives us all hope, but we are also reminded that Love should be our central concern. It is clear to me that through her teaching and example so marvellously seen here at the school, Mrs Naylor taught us, in her quiet way,  a great deal about that greatest of all gifts – Love.

May she rest in Peace.  


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