Alumni Speak

Vanessa Ann Busfield - née Rispin and Sr. Valeria

I am now 71 years old and have led an interesting life, in several countries, learning a few languages along the way. However, the grounding and education I enjoyed came from a time which started 60 years ago.

I went to St. Mary’s School in Poona – now Pune – from 1962 to 1967, where I did my Indian School Certificate finals. They were then referred to as the Cambridge School Certificate because our papers were sent to Cambridge for correction and assessment.

The education under the supervision of the CSMV nuns, and with brilliant teachers, was second to none. We were afforded a very thorough schooling in all aspects of life, not just the things one learns from books, but good behaviour, respect for all and, (for me) most importantly, the foundation of my Faith. This has stood me in good stead and helped me through some very challenging times and situations.

St. Mary’s School was my ‘safe’ place and where I found solace and sanctuary. I even opted to stay in school for the autumn holidays! Life was not what it should have been at home, so school was where I felt good. My fondest memories are of my nuns – Sr. Susan Dominica, Sr. Mary Columba(who was a magician on the organ), Sr. Cora, Sr. Rita Mary (who took my catechism before my Confirmation), Sr. Stella Frances, Sr. Hilda Kathleen, Sr. Frances Hilda, Sr. Mary Anselm, Sr. Mary Frideswide, Mother Doreen, Sr. Judith Ann and, of course, Sr. Valeria. Yes, I remember each of them with very warm regard and gratitude for all they taught us.

Among the lay teachers who are still very present in my mind are Miss Lawrence (took Art and taught us young ladies how to sneeze), Miss Coshan(the most inspiring Geography teacher and tragically killed in a hit and run accident, Miss Irani(my saviour in French), Miss Frenchman(my piano lessons were great), Miss Masseh(brilliant with Maths), Mrs. Dean, Miss Agarwal and Miss Chandran (who became a nun whilst I was in Poona - Sr. Christine Yoshoda). I cannot forget to mention our Matron, Mrs. Calmiano(a tiny fireball of energy who kept us and our dormitories in good shape). Naturally, St. Mary’s Church in Poona and our school Chapel played an important role. I was a Sacristan and one of my proudest moments was to carry the cross for the Stations of the Cross service.

We had a brindle bull terrier called Brunnie who gave birth to a white male puppy. He was named ‘Sir Joash of St. John’ and had one blue eye and one brown one. My mother bought him and Joey came hone with us. When he was two, he had an accident and broke his leg. My mother used to take him for drives as part of his recuperation. On occasion, when there were nuns walking down the road, Joey would go crazy. My mother would then ask the nuns whether he could say ‘hello’. He loved all nuns!

All that I learnt at St. Mary’s has made me who I am today. All the above mentioned were strict but always fair, and I shall hold them in great esteem and affection forever.


I’d like to share with you my newly released book: “STEPPING STONES – A PASSAGE OUT OF INDIA” which includes quite a lot about SMS, Pune.

Yes, I completed Standard 8 way back in 1955 – a rough calculation – or a not so rough one - makes me HOW OLD???

Hmm! Yes, that’s right 80+ and still I’m proud to tell everybody who asks “Where are you from?” – because of my ‘accent’ - that I was born and bred in India and I went to school at St. Mary’s High School in Poona (Pune).

Over the years, in many, many environments, situations and even some different countries this has always been a source of more questions. So, eventually, I wrote a book and put it up on Amazon as both an eBook and a paperback (print on demand!! – such is technology these days!). It is very historical about both India (as a new Republic and the withdrawal of the British) and SMS as it was in the mid-twentieth century. I remember singing the ‘new’ Indian anthem – which I can still sing!

My elder sister Jane also finished her schooling there. She went on to do a teacher’s degree at the SMS Teachers’ College. My sister Angela was 2 years ahead of me. I think all our names were up on the results boards which used to hang in the assembly hall.

I was hoping you could share information about my book with the broader SMS community, both past and present, by mentioning it in the next OGA magazine. It is available on line.

I would, of course, be happy to answer questions you or others might have about the book and my time (as a boarder) at SMS.

I have returned to India twice and, of course, to SMS also. The last time was for the 150th anniversary celebrations when I was accompanied by my daughter.

Wishing you all at the school a safe year, from Covid-19 virus, and a another successful academic year.

Kind regards,
Felicity Simmons (Malfiggiani)


Mrs. Veena Vora, President and Mrs. Sarla Kumar, Vice President of the St. Mary's School Alumni Association handed over the following cheques to the Board members and the Principal on 25th February 2016,on behalf of the Association :

  • Alumni Association & Prashanti Cancer Care Mission- Rs 3,09,000/-
  • Mrs. Malti Mansukhani Desai- Rs 1,00,000/-
  • Mrs. Surekha Kher- Rs 32,000/-
  • Mrs. Daulat Oberoi- Rs 10,000/-
  • Mrs. Brinda Abreo- Rs 7001/-

We would like to thank the SMS Alumni Association for their contribution to the School for the sesquicentennial year.

Excited voices called out to each other as ladies or should we call them ‘girls’ walked in through the gates of St. Mary’s on the warm, balmy afternoon of the 15th of January. They were the alumni of the school who had been invited to walk around the campus and re-live their school days – some even in their School uniforms - as part of the sesquicentennial year celebrations. The SMS Circle and the Tile Wall grabbed their attention and gave them ample opportunity to click their ‘selfies’. A nostalgic tour of the verdant campus, the classrooms, the chapel and the sports grounds drew loud exclamations as they recalled those wonderful days. Some of the more agile ladies even ventured to a round of basketball!!

The alumni were then seated in the auditorium where they revelled in the delightful music provided by the school choirs. A film showing an interview with a very lucid and composed Sister Valeria at Wantage was probably the most memorable part of the evening. Her words were so meaningful and relevant in today’s world.

Words of the school song, tea along with snacks from the school canteen and memorabilia bought from our “Store of Nostalgia” ensured that memories of school would remain entrenched in their minds for a very long time!