Photo: Adrià Lucas García González
Interview: Januaria Piromallo
Le Rosey's Philippe Gudin Places School Firmly in Son Christophe’s Hands
For a hundred years, Le Rosey has called Gstaad its winter home.
Every January, the school moves its 400 students from the main campus in Rolle, built on a 14th-century castle, to homely wooden chalets in the Saanenland. A close partner and source of both pride and income for the region, the school has made plans to expand and is awaiting final federal approval for its new campus in Schönried.
The views from Le Rosey?s Alpine campus may be breathtaking, but inside the real inspiration comes from top-notch professors and courses. Students from around the world vie for a spot in this, one of the most exclusive, and expensive, private schools in the world.
For the past 35 years, this educational empire founded in 1880 has been ruled by fourth generation owners and directors Anne and Philippe Gudin. With his charming and surprisingly down-to-earth manner, Gudin gives off the impression of a timeless French actor of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) instead of strict director. But son Christophe, beau garcon, has recently taken on the role of adjoint director, waiting his turn to be crowned King of the Castle.
Is not easy to have father and son for a double interview: If one is at the winter campus, then the other is in Rolle. If one is testing new students with entrance examinations, the other is meeting with the professors. They both may be multitasking, dedicated globetrotters, but the Gudins are certainly not interchangeable each brings a unique quality to the role of school director.
Despite their busy schedules, the Gudins were kind enough to sit for an interview with GSTAADLIFE. In the conference room, flanked by a large collage of students in all manner of activity graduating, racing, winning, performing, like a unique piece of pop art we caught a glimpse the real Rosey. Top education in a beautiful setting, certainly, but not without a lot of hard work derriere les coulisses, behind the scenes.
GSTAADLIFE: Mr Philippe Gudin, you seem too young to retire. Despite his young age, how is Christophe well poised to take over your role?
Philippe Gudin: It is a job that needs fresh energy, good emotional balance and a lot of imagination. Christophe has all of these qualities.
Christophe Gudin: Actually my father started as director when he was 26 years old. As tradition all the directors from the past started at the same age. So I am 28 years old and a little bit behind?
GL: How will the transition to director take place?
CG: During this academic year and next, we will work together on a day-to-day basis. We share the same office and discuss every major decision together. I am also getting to know everyone involved in the Rosey community at large. Responsibilities will be gradually transitioned during those two years and my parents will also always remain available for advice and they will continue lead the board in the following years.
GL: Mr (Philippe) Gudin, do you have other children working at Le Rosey?
PG: Our daughter Marie, 25 years old, is Le Rosey?s event manager. The other two want nothing to do with the school. Olivier works in Asia for Chopard and Laurence owns a publishing house. She is the real intellectual of the family.
GL: Le Rosey claims to be a School for Life and many Roseans say its a family for life. What allows the students to remain so close even years after they have graduated?
CG: A touch of magic! The Rosey spirit has been growing for generations to become the force it is today. It?s the fruit of a harmonious balance of different cultures in this international community. We have children from over sixty different countries. Ours was a global village long before the invention of Internet.
GL: How does the extensive Le Rosey network function?
PG: The AIAR (International Association of Roseans) is unique because Roseans keep a very strong link with their friends and their alma mater. The quality and level of trust of the relationships between teachers and Roseans and amongst pupils during their school time is a key ingredient of that success. The move to a very different and bonding experience in Gstaad also creates unique shared memories. This willingness to stay in touch then drives a very useful network with helpful friends all over the world.
GL: How many students do you have on your waiting list?
PG: Every year approximately 350 students apply for 90 places at Le Rosey. Lets say that for every three and half who take the entrance exams, one is admitted.
GL: In your opinion, what is the most important value to instil in your students?
PG: At Le Rosey we have four core values: Respect, responsibility, commitment and discipline. There is a clear and simple code explained in detail to our pupils from age 8 to 18. Le Rosey is a demanding school with an open door policy. The ability to discuss freely guarantees a permanent dialogue.
GL: How can this generation compete with fellow youngsters in emerging markets, namely Asia, who are raised with a strong sense of sacrifice and dedication to their studies?
CG: All pupils must dare to succeed, by taking on challenges and pursuing excellence. We teach our students to be curious in all areas of life, and if not to be leaders, then to be good followers!
GL: Le Rosey is one of the priciest worldwide. Why is the school so expensive?
PG: Le Rosey is not a luxury school; children are not treated like guests in a hotel. The son of a king is treated with the same respect as the son of anyone else, like all other normal students. Our personnel costs are high: We have 250 teachers and staff for 400 students the teacher to pupil ratio is 1:5. We have a campus of 30 hectares that provides sport and modern facilities. Not to mention Gstaad! We are the only school in the world to have two campuses, which is costly. And yet, we re- invest 95% of our profits in the school to maintain our very high standards.
GL: Do you offer scholarships for those who cannot afford tuition?
PG: Yes we do, they are made available through the Rosey Foundation. Every year three to five students are awarded a scholarship; the amount of financial aid is based on the demonstration that parents are not able to meet standard financial obligations.
GL: What is your last achievement as director, Mr (Philippe) Gudin?
PG: Le Carnal Hall, the new Learning Centre, will provide first-class amenities for our music, design, art, drama and cooking courses. This includes a 900-seat theatre. It came at a cost of 50 million francs, yet we did not ask a penny from the parents. Alongside using our own resources, we secured bank loans to help bring the project to life.
For the inaugural concert next October, weve invited the Royal London Philharmonic Orchestra. The season will include world-class performances by the Philharmonic St. Petersburg and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
GL: And what is your first achievement as director, Mr (Christophe) Gudin?
CG: I?m trying to avoid the mistakes typically associated with my former position as a management consultant and listening before launching any major reform. I already have a few initiatives close to my heart: I?ve launched cultural days where the entire school lives at the rhythm of a given culture for a few hours; I?m also building bridges with more applied sciences by bringing young IT students on campus as well as start-ups.
GL: Do you maintain nationality quotas, and if so, why?
PG: We aim to keep a vibrant mix of nationalities and cultures, and therefore limit any one nationality or group of nationalities to 10% of the total student body. Swiss, French and Americans make up this percentage, due to the school?s location, and an old Rosey tradition in America.
GL: When will the new campus in Schönried be ready?
PG: We have all the necessary permissions, but a few stubborn neighbours have made official complaints to the Canton of Bern. We are waiting for the appeal. Although it is likely to proceed as planned, but we will refuse to accept any blackmail or pay under the table settlements. But we have already other opportunities, for instance a project in Crans-Montana! It would be a pity, after 100 years in Gstaad
GL: With many pupils coming from the world`s wealthiest families, how can Le Rosey teach the value of money?
CG: Sometimes parents compensate for their absence by giving too much, and we fight against this tendency, which is against our principles. So we give every student a reasonable sum of pocket money the same for everybody.
We also involve the children in our charity work. In Mali, Le Rosey built a school and support 1200 underprivileged children there. Pupils leave Le Rosey having seen first-hand how the less fortunate live, with great respect for people from all walks of life.
GL: And our last question, from an admiring student, Why, Mr Gudin, are you retiring if all the children love you?
PG: That really touches my heart deeply. When I started I was a big brother for my students. Afterwards, I become a father to them. I want leave before they see me as an old and gaga, as a grandfather. But, attention, achtung! I will always keep an eye on you!