St. Gilgen International School is probably Austria’s most prestigious private school with a community consisting of more than 200 students and 45 teachers from 40 different nationalities. With a breathtaking Alpine backdrop, the magical lakeside town of St. Gilgen offers students a charming and safe local community and an outdoor sports paradise. I am deeply involved in StGIS, and I’ll explain how it all came to be...
When my wife Angelika and I first visited the school together with our children for a trial day, we met an art teacher at the entrance. The teacher was soaked. When we asked him what had happened, he replied that he had just taken his class in the school canoes across lake Wolfgang to Fürberg bay. Why? Because there had been the perfect light for painting. And they had suddenly been surprised by the rain… Wow! An art teacher who was this passionate about finding the perfect light for his students’ paintings! We instantly knew that this was the place where we wanted our children to develop their talents.
“Every child has talent and StGIS will develop it” is the vision of our school, and it definitely kept this promise when it came to our children. Our son passed his IB exam whilst he trained up to 20 hours a week to achieve his dream of becoming the youngest Austrian Ironman triathlon finisher. He was supported by his teachers and mentor/tutors, who were always ready to help whenever he had to miss classes. Today he is an MBA student in San Francisco. Our daughter discovered her talent as an actress at StGIS. It gave her so much self confidence that she could improve even in those other subjects, which had been identified as “weaknesses” in a previous public school. She graduated from StGIS with a strong IB result as well, now attends an acting school in Vienna and has just received her first paid role at a summer theatre festival.
In April 2016, we were informed that the owner of StGIS – an investment fund – would close the school with immediate effect because they were not making any money. Together with other passionate parents, I helped to take over StGIS and place it into the hands of a newly-formed non-profit foundation of parents. Together we created a business plan that allowed the school to purchase the valuable real estate next to lake Wolfgang, where the school is located, and to hire the best head of school, teachers and sports coaches available. We also offered scholarships to one third of our students – sponsored by companies like Rauch, Red Bull and Mercedes Pappas. I committed myself to taking over the role of pro bono Managing Partner for the school to make this happen, and consequently I decided to leave my role as Red Bull CCO in order to fully focus on the field of education – an unusual “career step” that I have never regretted.