He was once accused of "committing an educational felony."
But the reality was very different for the hundreds of students Dr David Bollen taught at the former Saint Patrick's College.
One of them recalled this week the life lessons and value of critical thinking he imparted throughout 20 years of history teaching.
Dr Bollen, a highly respected educator, died on Saturday at his Goulburn district home, surrounded by family, after several years of illness. He was eighty-two.
Wife Anne, also a former St Pat's teacher, recalled that her husband was once told he was committing a felony by not undertaking a Diploma of Education. He had completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in History at the University of Sydney. Later he won a Commonwealth Scholarship to undertake a PhD in History.
Dr Bollen went on to become a teaching Fellow and History lecturer at his alma mater. Another lecturing stint at Macquarie University ensued, and then a move with Anne and their six children to a Gurrundah Road property near Goulburn in 1979.
The next year he joined the teaching staff at Saint Pat's following a conversation with then school president, Brother FD Marzorini. There he remained for the next 20 years until shortly after the school's amalgamation with Marian College to become Trinity Catholic College.
Dr Bollen taught History and to a lesser extent, English and Religious Education.
"He enjoyed being able to interest and enthuse the boys and found it very broadening, whereas at university it was a lot more focused," Mrs Bollen said.
"If someone asked a question they would usually get a long answer."
The Goulburn appointment was something of a homecoming. Born in Canberra, the family, including older brother John and sister Marjorie, moved here after their father was appointed district inspector with the Post Master General's Office.
The young David completed his secondary schooling at Goulburn High School, ending up as vice-captain.
At university he met Anne Thomson. They married in Sydney and had six children before deciding to make the move to Goulburn.
"Being a country boy and having had family holidays on the farm, he wanted to get out of Sydney," Mrs Bollen said.
"...The farm was a great interest. He built sheds, loved his sheep and enjoyed getting out on the tractor."
But history was also a great love. He wrote numerous books, including a jointly written text book, Two Centuries, which was widely used in schools.
Dr Bollen enjoyed the change from academia to secondary education, which afforded greater interaction.
He made an impression on colleagues, who also became good friends.
One of them, Garry Groves, remained close right up until Dr Bollen's passing.
"He was remarkable and brought a level of scholarship and academic rigor to the subject he was teaching," he said.
"...I think he endeavoured to respect students for what they could deliver but was clear in his expectations of them because he wanted them to succeed.
"...He was always a great source of information and advice and I admired him tremendously."
Following retirement in early 2001, the Christian Brothers asked Dr Bollen to write a history of St Pat's.
"He loved researching and writing it," Mrs Bollen said.
"He would catch the train to Sydney and spend time in the Christian Brothers' archives."
The result was the meticulously researched Up on the Hill:A History of Saint Patrick's College, Goulburn, a 700 page work published in 2008.
Emeritus Professor of History at Macquarie University, Bruce Mansfield described it as "an evocative picture of school life over five generations," set in a broader context of farming life, the rural and education sectors and Goulburn itself.
He also had a deep interest in Goulburn's history and had wanted to write a book. Last year he wrote an account of first Lilac Festival Queen Palasa Salvi's life and successfully pushed for a garden to be named in her honour.
Dr Bollen committed his own family's history to paper, transcribing centuries old diaries in the process. His more recent work was the story behind an 1893 Belmore Street home into which he and Anne intended to move.
Mrs Bollen said she would remember her husband as a gentle man.
"He was a people person and was interested in anyone of any age. He was interested in people and what they were doing, including all his grandchildren, whom he loved."
Dr Bollen is also survived by children Catherine, Jenny (a Goulburn teacher), Jonathan, Rose, Elizabeth and Rebecca, and siblings John, also a well known former Goulburn teacher, and Marjorie, of Taree. Another brother, Hugh, died at age four.
A Thanksgiving Service for Dr Bollen's life will be held at Saint Saviour's Cathedral on Thursday, May 30 at 12pm.
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