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News > Previous Events > Sydney Boys High School 138th Annual Presentation Night Occasional Address

Sydney Boys High School 138th Annual Presentation Night Occasional Address

Bruce Corlett AM, Class of 1961 and Patron, SHS Old Boys Union delivered the OccasionaL Address at the 138th Annual Presentation Night, 16 February, 2021
Bruce Corlett AM ('61)
Bruce Corlett AM ('61)

On 16th February, the first event was held at the new Governors Centre.

Mr Bruce Corlett AM ('61), Patron, Sydney High School Old Boys Union, delivered the Occasional address, reflecting for the audience, mostly of students, and parents, on the impact his time at High had on his life. The speech in full is outlined below.


Dr Jaggar, special guest, parents and boys, I’ve always been very proud of being a graduate of our great school, Sydney Boys High School.

I felt extremely honoured when I was appointed a Patron of the SHSOBU along with two of High’s most distinguished alumni – Professor Sir Michael Marmot, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, and Sir James Wolfensohn who, sadly, passed away recently. Sir James was, amongst his many outstanding achievements, President of The World Bank. Former President Clinton commented that there was no world leader who wouldn’t accept a telephone call from Sir James such was his influence in global affairs.

SBHS laid the foundations for whatever successes I have achieved in life. I enjoyed my time here immensely.

Not only did I receive an outstanding education, it introduced me to an entirely new demographic – fellow students with such diverse backgrounds.

It taught me how to compete with the best and brightest.

Like most of my cohort, I went directly from school to University. The academic disciplines of choice in those days were relatively narrow – principally Medicine, Law, Teaching, Engineering, Science and Arts.

I knew what I didn’t want to do and, by a process of elimination, I drifted into taking a double degree in Arts/Law with a major in Economics.

Some 8 years later I was made a partner of a Sydney city Law Firm at the age of 25. Suddenly, with a potentially long professional career ahead of me, I realised I had made a mistake – I really didn’t want to be a lawyer at all.

So with no job, little money and newly married, I resigned from the law firm and started the job hunt process – happily with the total support of my wife, Annie, who is here with me tonight.

Fortunately for me a new industry was emerging – Merchant Banking. I was able to convince a US Bank to employ me in their recently established Australian operations.

I’d always loved business and merchant banking was all about business. This role gave me exposure to the global community – I never looked back.

Based on my experience, my ADVICE to you all is simple – if you feel you’ve made the wrong career choice – have the courage to changeback yourself

Given your vocational/professional career will play such a dominant role in your life, you’ve got to be passionate about what you do – keep questioning and evolving.

So began my 50 year career in business – I retired from my final business public role 18 months or so ago when I was 75 years old.

My career had a particular focus on the Investment Banking, Maritime and Property industries. Over that period, I had various roles – that of employee, director and owner. I worked in the public, private and Government sectors.

It’s been an exciting journey – fortunately, mostly with positive outcomes.

As luck would have it, I married a very special and talented lady. One of our common interests is in community engagement. Throughout our 50+ year marriage, we have both been involved in community activities. We have felt a responsibility to help, in any way we can, those in society who need support for the challenges they face. It has brought us much joy and satisfaction. I strongly recommend you do likewise; start from an early age; there are so many ways in which you can engage; in addition to helping those in need,

You meet so many inspiring people in the community sector. Indeed, it was in this context that, some years ago, I met and engaged with Dr Jaggar and Paul Harapin, President of the SHSOBU, on projects they were leading.

One aspect of community engagement I would particularly like to touch on is the importance of mentoring young people - something I’ve done throughout my adult life. I recommend it to you.

I’ve found it to be so rewarding - I’ll cite an example.

Some 20 years ago I was introduced to a young man when he finished High School. Over time he recounted his life story – he was abandoned as a 9yo and taken in by a Priest who arranged for him to get a boarding scholarship at a Sydney school. Today this young man is a member of the leadership group of a substantial global infrastructure organisation. He was recently invited back to his boarding school to speak on an occasion such as this – his theme was

IT’S NOT WHERE YOU START - IT’S WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE. Such a profoundly moving and powerful message which, as the School Principal later observed, resonated deeply with everyone in attendance. I suspect his theme is relevant to all of us.

On that note, I wish you every success in whatever career you choose ….and remember to enjoy the journey.

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