Words of wisdom from celebrated Old Boys

In this year like no other, our thoughts were very much with the Year 12s, in their final year at BGS. And who better to offer words of encouragement and advice during this challenging time, than the inspiring members of our Hall of Fame. Here are the messages they shared with the boys. Words of advice we can all live by. Just another way the OBGS, and its members, are working together to support each other.

Peter Harvie (OB 1957)

These are strange times, in uncharted seas.

Yet opportunities exist and sometimes are magnified in challenging social and economic environments.

These times will pass but you should not wait until easier times to put your personal targets (and often dreams) into practice.

Above all, look after your families, your friends and yourself.

President Roosevelt said it so well in a line he adroitly lifted from someone else: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Stay strong, stay the course to realise your dreams.


Julien Wiener (OB 1972)

G’day to the Brighton Grammar School Class of 2020.

Now, more than ever, take a few minutes to surprise call a mate, simply ask how he’s going, listen to and learn from his experiences, then share those with other mates.

It’s beneficial in so many ways to simply make that contact.

Your mates will thank you.

Personally, you’ll get energy and such a positive vibe when you can hear how glad your mate is to take that call from you.

If he doesn’t answer, leave him a message then check back in.

It confirms that the Class of 2020 are most definitely in this together, supporting each other through their challenges and when you all come out the other side (and you will), you’ll have experienced and seen the value of your friendships going way beyond any pandemic!

To you and your families, stay well, stay connected and good luck for all your pursuits.


Paul Bassat (OB 1985)

Dear Class of 2020

Good luck to all of you as you enter into the exam period. I hope you all perform to the best of your ability and Year 12 provides you with the platform to pursue your dreams as you embark on your post school life. I am sure you will look back at your time at Brighton Grammar with a great deal of happiness and satisfaction; no doubt lifelong friendships have been formed and lifetime lessons absorbed. 

At the moment, it is hard to look past the critical importance of Year 12 and your desire to achieve the highest possible ATAR score. There is no getting around the importance of your ATAR score but you should view Year 12 and your results as the beginning of a journey, not a destination. That journey often takes unexpected paths and much of the joy comes from these unanticipated events. The transition from school to adult life is one of the most important periods in your life and I am sure your time at Brighton Grammar will have provided you with incredible foundations for the next phase of your life. 

2020 has been a year like no other in our lifetimes and completely different to what you would have imagined at the start of the school year. I am sure it has been a difficult year at times for all of you. At times you would have been disappointed about missing out on long-anticipated events, you may have felt anxious at times about the healthcare situation caused by COVID 19 or about what lies ahead, or simply found it a bit harder than normal to focus on your studies. All of these feelings are completely normal and you shouldn’t be critical of yourself for experiencing these feelings. 

At times like these, it is good to remember that we can only control certain things in our life. Our focus should be on those things in our control and as best as possible, we should shut out the noise. It is also good to remember that all students are operating under the same circumstances and those of you who can maintain your focus and drive will thrive. 

For me personally, 2020 has been a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the things that are truly important in my life, to have a new appreciation for some of the simple pleasures such as the beauty in nature, and to further develop some attributes such as resilience and adaptability. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my ‘normal life’ or feel anxious at times, but it has provided me with an opportunity to learn and grow this year. 

I hope likewise for you, 2020 has been a great opportunity to learn and grow. I wish you great success in your VCE Exams and beyond. 


David Russell (OB 1987)

Men, you will go down in history as the Class facing the most unique set of circumstances. Your final and most important year of academic life is laced with interference, distraction and social upheaval.

Everybody in the community including Old Boys, current teachers and students, future students, and those connected to all of us are talking about you. You find yourself in a position neither chosen nor bestowed, but you will set a new benchmark in BGS’ history for tenacity, resilience and perseverance.

Covid-19 is having a miserable impact on everyone including my business interests. The lack of connection is materially impacting the management and motivation of my staff. Personally, I have aging parents who need better personalised care. Having resided in Asia for the last 16 years, I am cut off from my friends, social clubs and associations. Our family charity (CSS) is completing one of the most monumental grant programs in Russian history and I cannot join them to celebrate the success. Today it is easy to use Covid-19 as a cover for any problems and frustrations. 

We will hear the moaning and blame for personal woes for years to come from people throughout society: it will be levelled at Covid-19, the state government’s negligence, Chinese Communist Party conspiracies, uber drivers, security guards and the list goes on. It is all a waste of time. Nothing is achieved from words. Nobody remembers the words of complainers or the “I could have done more but for” crew. 

Actions are the only story worth telling and remembering. Stories of resilience, adaption and perseverance are what has led to every major sporting, academic, business, community growth milestone in this country.

It does not mean people do not feel compassion and sensitivity to the current situation you find yourselves in but after Covid-19 is moved to yesterday’s story that compassion will move to the plight of the next group of people with problems and where does that leave you?

Where this situation leaves you is up to you to determine. Spend the first 10 minutes of everyday doing the following:

  1. Identifying and parking to the sidelines any negative feelings you are having.
  2. Set and reaffirm the Goals you want to achieve: whether certain grades, tertiary education admissions, or future career aspirations.
  3. Remind yourself that it is only you that will get you there.
  4. Set your daily milestone studies and at the end of the day be proud of reaching them.

Today in this Covid-19 period I do the following:

  1. Set daily work milestones.
  2. Make an effort to communicate with friends and work colleagues.
  3. As soon as I feel tired or frustrated, I stop whatever I am doing, leave my desk and go exercise. Short and explosive exercise. Something to get the blood and aggressive hormones going.
  4. Then back to kicking my daily goals.

Do not overdo the music, video games or TV because it allows you to disconnect and forget. If something is worrying you, discuss it with your teachers, parents, friends or other confidents.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking to counsellors or psychologists. In fact if it helps you, it’s actually a very smart thing to embrace. Some of the brightest and most successful business and sports people embrace psychologists and life coaches to get an edge over their competitors.

And remember, no matter what your goals or dreams in life and they will change as you progress through the decades, nothing beats PREPARATION and HARD WORK. Therefore get cracking, we are all watching and waiting to see what the Class of 2020 achieves.


Graeme Disney (OB 1955)

Congratulations on reaching the climax of an extraordinary and unprecedented year. I understand that you have all coped remarkably well with the difficulties in learning, the changes in lifestyle and the disappointments with the cancellation of the usual sporting and social highlights.

I believe that it is important to look at the positives, past and future.

Treasure your memories of past years at BGS. Even this year will have had some good times and strengthened some friendships. You have also learned to adapt to a difficult situation when it arises.

Face the future with confidence. You are special, as you will always be able to proudly claim: ‘I overcame the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, by completing Year 12.’

This is a unique and unalterable reference point in Australian and world history, such as the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression. Despite the whole world almost coming to a standstill – you have battled on! You are survivors who did not let a huge setback stand in your way. You have ‘Fought the Good Fight.’

Congratulations once again and best wishes. Meliora Sequamur.


Les Heil (OB 1951)

To the Class of 2020, a very fine group of young men reaching the pinnacle of a very challenging and confronting year.

The extraordinary differences when the 2020 scholastic year is compared with almost any other year since the school opened in February 1882 are astounding – indeed monumental.

In spite of challenges, no other year in history has had to contend with you guys can stand proud. You persevered and met multiple challenges head-on and succeeded. Congratulations! 

Your hearts should be full of gratitude for so much.  Especially for the privilege of attending BGS.  You should thank your parents every day for this gift which will keep on giving throughout your career years and beyond.

A few more tips as you head into an unknown but exciting future.  You have probably heard many of them already.

Never stop learning – because life never stops teaching.

Many of you will go onto more education at Uni.  Think about your course carefully. Will it get you a job?

LOVE WHAT YOU DO. And persist and persevere with conviction.

Always go the extra mile.  It will boost your career and give you the ‘Feel Good Factor’

Dream BIG. It is the BEST way to overcome any limiting beliefs you may have.

Quickly acquire the ability to manage money. VITAL.

Call your Mum at least every week. 

NEVER take your parents for granted. VITAL.

Exercise regularly. Essential for body and brain.

Positive psychology has a lot to say about the power of gratitude.  Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously.’

I wish you all the good things in life for a happy and healthy future.


Stan Marks (OB 1946)

What a year you have been through. 

I wonder how as a Year 12 student at the ‘old’ Grammar school, I would have got through it.  

It would have been quite a testing time as you have found.

What can I advise you from my years and now as a very old boy but, hopefully, young in heart, spirit and even still striving in various areas?    

Savour each day and remember none of us, no matter who or what we are will get out of it alive.

We are all, repeat all, destined for the same final destination.

Each of us has 24 daily hours, no more, no less.  So, allowing for nature, health and the actions of others and luck (although we can help make our own luck) try and make them memorable.

You only get one chance at life so make the most of it.

Question and question. Don’t just accept what you are told as the truth.   And take little for granted. We live in an exploding era of science with so many wonders to explain.  You can learn much about yourself as well as the world from science.  And remember knowledge isn’t wisdom.  And a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Communicate with others.  Communication is among the most important features of life, more important than ever in these uncertain and confusing times. Learning to live together has never been more important and you can perhaps play a role in fostering understanding.   We need to get to know each other better and realise there are many pathways to beliefs, faiths, values and hopes.   Don’t ignore the world outside yours.

Getting to understand other peoples, their lifestyles and daily lives is a most wonderful thing.  Discovering how people lived in the past and now, can add so much to our lives. One of the greatest gifts is making a contribution to our humanity which suffers from power plays, hatred, and misunderstanding.  Maybe you will play a role in helping to eradicate wars, ethnic cleansing and the evils that cause so much suffering.

A message to stop and ponder who and what we are and who do we think we are.

Value the importance of laughter and satire but not at the expense of others. It’s so easy to be cruel, walk in other’s shoes without any understanding and, above all, tell others how to live.

Perhaps one of you from Year 12 will make a special contribution towards peace, understanding or who knows what – Planet Earth’s very survival. What a challenge.

Or perhaps a contribution to really advancing Australia Fair. A united nation bringing together all our cosmopolitan communities and indigenous peoples.

What a wonderful contribution this would be!

Try to be true to yourself and remember a little bit of laughter goes a long way. And sleep.

You will face many challenges, some really testing your core values. Maybe what you have been taught at BGS will stand you in good stead.

Don’t dismiss your dreams – they could give you a way ahead, as time goes by.