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Mediocrity was never an option

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Obstetricians Wendy Woods, Terry Lynn Emery and Emma Robinson have brought thousands of babies into the world.

With 60 years of experience between them, they're now working with their second generation of mothers.

Dr Emery, 58, said: “I love it when someone comes up to me and asks if I want to see the baby I delivered, and the ‘baby' is now 6ft 2in.”

The doctors credit their success, in part, to their alma mater, the Berkeley Institute which celebrates its 120th anniversary this year.

Dr Emery graduated from Berkeley in 1975, Dr Woods in 1982, and Dr Robinson in 1981.

All came from a family tradition of attending the school.

Dr Robinson's mother Marion Robinson, was an English teacher at the school and assistant principal at one point.

Former school principal, Frederick Shirley Furbert, was also her grandmother's brother.

“Going there was a legacy,” Dr Robinson said.

Dr Woods said: “My father, Ronald, went there, as did my older sister, Rhonda, and my brother, Craig.

“My sister was valedictorian. I remember standing on a chair practicing her valedictorian speech when she wasn't around.”

As a child, Dr Woods was so determined to go to Berkeley that she politely turned down a scholarship to the Bermuda High School at the age of 9.

“I was called out of my class at Central School (now Victor Scott Primary),” Dr Woods said. “The Bermuda High School had decided to give the top two students at Central scholarships.

“When they offered me the scholarship, I said, very politely, ‘no thank you, I'm going to the Berkeley Institute'.”

In those days students took the 11-Plus transfer exam to qualify for high school. They needed top grades to get into Berkeley.

“When I found out I'd gotten into Berkeley I ran all the way home from school,” Dr Woods said. “I was just so excited. When I got home I found the door locked and frantically rattled it.

“My aunt, who lived downstairs, hearing the commotion came running upstairs, thinking there was something wrong.”

On the first day of school in 1977, Dr Woods stood looking in awe at the school through the bars of the school gate.

“Seeing all those older children inside the school grounds was quite intimidating,” Dr Woods said.

All three obstetricians qualified for Berkeley at 10 years old, two years early.

“In my day, Berkeley thought they had enough younger students and didn't want to admit me,” Dr Emery said. “Yvonne Simmons was my headmistress at the Central School at the time.

“She said ‘if Terry can't go to high school then the rest of Central School can't go either'. So that is how I ended up going.”

When Dr Emery arrived for her first day in 1970, she was still quite small.

“My blazer was the same length as my skirt,” Dr Emery laughed. “And I was carrying this enormous satchel with all my things in it. There were three or four other students who were my age, from Central School, but they were all put in a different class.”

Dr Robinson said being younger than everyone else at the school wasn't easy.

“I was two years younger than everyone else,” she said. “And I took my school work very seriously. Not all my times at Berkeley were happy ones.

“I was teased and called ‘teacher's pet' and other names. But I was just determined to get on with what I'd come there to do.”

And what she'd come there to do was achieve.

Plenty of mischief also went on at Berkeley.

Dr Emery recalled some of the mischief her class got up to.

“You know how they complain about people's driving on the roads today?” she asked. “We had that in my day. Some of the students would hold a motorcycle race up and down the North Shore.

“Of course, they weren't supposed to do this. But a group of students would go down to the gate to watch them go by.

“I never went because I was afraid we'd be caught and I'd be thrown out of school. But I know one of the best riders in that group was a female.

“I won't name names. They never did get caught.

“They were very strategic about when they raced.”

She said many of the teachers had strong personalities, and students were careful not to cross them.

“You didn't go into their class acting the fool,” said Dr Emery.

One of these was geography teacher Vivlyn Cooper. “She was one of my favourites,” said Dr Emery.

Biology teacher Stanfield Smith was one of Dr Woods's favourites.

“Whenever he sees me or Emma, he says we were his first two doctors,” Dr Woods said.

“Our teachers were very committed,” Dr Robinson said. “Teaching for them was a vocation, not a job. I still have very close relationships with my former teachers. When we were in school, they were always there for us.”

As a little girl, she'd leave West Pembroke School and walk to her mother's classroom at Berkeley.

“She'd be there long hours marking and getting ready for the next day,” said Dr Robinson. “I'd be in there with her. She had an open-door policy. She'd eat her lunch at her desk, so that if any of her students needed extra help they could come in and ask her for it.”

The women chose their professions at an early age. Dr Woods was three or four when she decided she wanted to be a doctor. Dr Robinson was also young.

“I wanted to be an geography and history teacher,” Dr Emery said. “But there were about five teacher training scholarships. They were very coveted.

“Then, as a teenager, I had a change of heart and decided I wanted to be a doctor. My aunt studied midwifery in the 1950s and I used to love reading her old midwifery textbooks.”

But due to a lack of funds, she first put herself through pharmacy school, which was cheaper.

“Then I put myself through medical school, working as a pharmacist,” Dr Emery said.

Dr Woods thinks it was Berkeley's school spirit and pride that ultimately helped her succeed in life.

“My education there instilled in me a sense of I can do it,” she said. “Mediocrity was never an option. They expected you to succeed.”

Dr Emery said she always thought the school motto Respice finem was unique to Berkeley, until years later she learnt it was a Latin phrase from Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors.

“It means ‘keep the end in view',” she said. “To us that meant look for goals and be steadfast in maintaining them. Sometimes it may not be a straight path you're on, but stay focused.”

Respice finem: Berkeley alumni obstetricians Terry Lynn Emery, Emma Robinson and Wendy Woods (Photograph supplied)
Obstetrician Wendy Woods (Photograph supplied)
Emma Robinson in her Berkeley uniform
Berkeley memories: Terry Lynn Emery at her Berkeley Institute cotillion in 1975
Distinguished graduates: obstetricians Wendy Woods, Terry Lynn Emery and Emma Robinson

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Published March 19, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated March 19, 2018 at 8:46 am)

Mediocrity was never an option

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