|18 Sep 2020
The Sydney High School Old Boys Union committee today announced Sir Michael Marmot ('61) and R. Bruce Corlett AM ('61) as Patrons, joining Sir James Wolfensohn ('49) following the recent passing of Sir Robert May ('52). They join an esteemed club of only 5 elected Patrons, as prior to 1981 the Governor of NSW was by default named Patron of the Sydney High School Old Boys Union.
It is some distance from Sydney Boys High to what Sir Michael is doing now, as one of the World's leading epidemiologists at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in London. At High, he developed the interest in science that, one thing leading to another, led to his pursuing medical research. But in the area of social determinants of health. It seemed obvious to him, as a medical student at the University of Sydney and junior doctor at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital that patients’ illnesses were very much related to the circumstances of their lives. It was important, then, to study the circumstances of their lives that led to their risk of illness. At University of California, Berkeley, he undertook a PhD in Epidemiology investigating why, when the Japanese migrate across the Pacific, their rate of heart disease went up. It was related to the nature of society.
Then taking up an academic position in London, he studied civil servants and showed that there was a remarkable social gradient in risk of death: the lower the employment grade the higher the mortality rate within a few years of follow up. In other words, poverty is bad for health; but even, among people who are not poor, the lower someone is in the hierarchy, the worse their health. Relative inequality is important.
Sydney High gave hiim something else: the confidence to speak in public and debate an argument. At High, he was involved in oratory, debating and, memorably for him if not the audience (in his opinion), performing in Macbeth on the steps of the War Memorial in Hyde Park in Sydney, playing the role of MacDuff.
The pandemic of Covid-19 has given new focus to his work on health inequalities. The pandemic has revealed underlying social inequalities in society and amplified them. Both the disease itself, and the societal response of lockdown have been an inconvenience for richer people and a matter of life and death for poorer. Australia and New Zealand managed well. The big challenge for the rest of the world is what society will look like as we emerge from the pandemic and associated economic meltdown. He hopes that the evidence that has been compiled on the social determinants of health and health inequalities will be an important part of creating fairer, healthier, and more sustainable societies.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL (University College London) and Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity
Bruce Corlett AM was born in Guildford, NSW, where he enjoyed a very happy childhood centred around family, Cubs, the local Church and soccer. Years 4 and 5 were spent in England when his father was awarded a scholarship to study engineering at Dorman Long, the UK company which built the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
On returning to Sydney, he spent the first 6 months of Year 7 at Parramatta High School. Midway through that year his family moved to Hunters Hill and Bruce was fortunate to secure a place at Sydney High. His move to High certainly broadened his view of the world, exposing him to a whole new demographic of race, religion and social class, as well as contemporaries who challenged him academically.
His time at High from 1957 to 1961 laid the groundwork for Bruce’s subsequent successes in life. It taught him resilience, the importance of teamwork and how to compete with the best. A number of teachers inspired him – Bob Outterside, Geoff Ball, Frank O’Rourke to name a few – who instilled in him enthusiasm for school and a love of learning. The School provided the opportunity to participate in a range of extra-curricular activities all of which played an important part in his development. At school he was a keen sportsman and actively participated in cricket, rugby and athletics. Many lifelong friendships were established at that time with Bruce continuing to regularly spend time with his friends from Sydney High.
After High, Bruce attended The University of Sydney and graduated in 1969 with degrees in Arts and Law. After practicing Law for a couple of years, Bruce found his niche in the corporate world where he spent the next 45 or so years. He worked both as an executive and director of many organisations involved in a wide range of industries including investment banking, property, insurance, maritime and trustee services. Early in his executive career, Bruce spent time living and working in London and Paris with a US Bank which exposed him to the workings of the global investment and financial markets.
Upon returning to Australia, Bruce continued his executive life in the investment banking and finance industries. He retired from his executive life in 1995 and went on to serve as Chair and Non-Executive Director of many corporations – both public and private. He was appointed by the Federal Government to Chair the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. He was the co-founder and Chair of Australian Maritime Systems Ltd which, over 20 years, expanded to operate in four continents prior to being sold to private equity a couple of years ago.
Throughout his life, Bruce has been actively involved in many community service organisations which included chairing the Microsearch Foundation of Australia and Lifestart Co-operative Ltd. He continues to serve on the Buildcorp Foundation Board and is an Ambassador of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. He was appointed by the Federal Government as a member of the Independent Soccer Review Committee whose recommendations led to the establishment of the A-League competition. Bruce has been a Senate Fellow at The University of Sydney and has served as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Sydney University Faculty of Economics & Business.
Along with his wife, Annie Corlett AM, Bruce continues to fund a range of academic scholarships and bursaries for indigenous and rural students. He was one of the founding sponsors and initial drivers of the Sydney High Bursary Program which he continues to champion.
Throughout his adult life he has committed considerable time mentoring young people.
Bruce’s contributions to public life were recognised in 2011 when he was made a Member of the Order of Australia. His citation read – “For service to the community through business advisory contributions to a range of charitable, medical research and educational organisations”.
To view this News Article
As many of you know, the OBU have been working very closely with the School on the Governors Centre project for several … More...