Skip to content

We were incredibly fortunate to welcome old scholar Andrew Lee (HWK 1994) to participate in our CEO-in-Residence Program last Thursday 30 May.

During his thought-provoking address in Senior School Muster, Mr Lee spoke of his time at St Peter’s College with fondness, reflecting on how one’s future is not too far away. He candidly shared how the failures he faced in his life turned into opportunities to be a better person. He spoke to how the challenges that make us uncomfortable, help us grow the most. You can watch a recording of Mr Lee’s address here.

Mr Lee also met with small groups of students throughout the day in intimate interactive sessions. Starting with a Year 9 History class, Mr Lee worked through the reasons for World War I alliances while the students made analytical connections to current world issues. As a former Hawkes House Captain, Mr Lee checked in with the Hawkes House leaders at Morning tea. He also spoke with the Uni@SPSC Law and Year 11 Legal Studies students about the diverse pathways within the legal profession. With the ever-changing career market, the job they end up in may not even exist today!


Student Reflections: 

Mr Lee’s insights were extremely beneficial, especially to someone who has recently began their study of the law. His experience, moreover, his grit and determination to get into Harvard after being rejected by Oxford was inspiring to say the least. It helped me understand that there will be numerous setbacks in my life going forward. However, what is important is that I pick myself back up and continue to pursue my goals. Hearing about Mr Lee’s choices in life (especially when he left his large firm for a more ‘morally correct’ job) allowed me to realise that in life it is important to balance my career ambitions (wants) with my moral compass.
Anirvan Iyengar (Year 11)

I really enjoyed the session a lot, I asked a lot of questions to Andrew about our history and the world we know. He provided valuable insight to my studies, and I will keep this knowledge for a very long time, and he was very respectful.
Hudson Kerr (Year 9)

Andrew Lee – a brief biography 
Andrew attended St Peters College where he was a Prefect and Captain of Hawkes House. Upon completing his studies at SPSC, Andrew attended Sydney Law School, Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the Hague Academy of International Law and Peking University Law School.

Andrew began his professional life as a commercial lawyer before moving to Geneva, Switzerland to practice human rights and criminal defence law. Andrew was then tasked with relocating to China and opening his organisation’s first office in Beijing to represent persons facing the Chinese death penalty and work on death penalty legal reform. Andrew eventually transitioned to Private International Law, specialising in commercial litigation.  He then moved into dispute resolution, resolving legal problems through negotiation and mediation instead of court. He was appointed head of China for one of the world’s largest international dispute resolution organisations, mediator for the World Bank and the United Nations Office of the Ombuds for Funds and Programs, where he handles work-place disputes featuring social-cultural issues such as gender, religion, and culture.  Most recently, Andrew also practices as a negotiation coach.

Outside of the law, Andrew is passionate about education. He has taught and been an invited guest speaker at leading Universities including Harvard and Stanford Law Schools, Tokyo University and the National University of Singapore. He has also delivered volunteer talks on global perspectives and citizenship to public schools across impoverished areas of China and South Australian regional public schools.

Ana Christensen 
Deputy Head of Senior School – Students (Year 9 and 10)

Andrew Lee – Muster Address

Extract from Address Andrew Lee (HWK 1994) delivered in Senior School Muster on Thursday 30 May.

I am a Saints boy. I started at Palm House. I finished at Year 12. And, as my son will tell you, I am very old. So old, that for me, Burchnall, Higgins, Shinkfield… they are not buildings. They are my teachers. Mr Burchnall taught me Latin in the Pentreath. Mr Higgins, taught me leg spin in the Junior School. And I remember one day, coming to school, when this building was on fire.

I share this for two reasons. First, I am so proud and honoured to be speaking in Mem Hall, to you, fellow students of a school that is a dear part of my life. Secondly, everything I am about to say about my work, my life, my achievements and my mistakes… they could easily happen to you.

Because it was not very long ago I was attending muster in Mem Hall, and swimming for House points, and collecting a sausage roll with tomato sauce from the tuck shop. I read Lord of the Flies and wrote about Jack and Ralph and Piggy. I competed in Rostrum Voice of Youth. I did plays and concerts with Walford and Seymour and St Peter’s Girls, And I remember beating Prince Alfred College at Athletics and Head of the River.

We are a lot alike. I hope to share some of my stories with you, And from the lessons I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made, I hope you can write your own success story.

Take Inspiration from Rejection

When I was at Saints, my academic grades were good. I played sport and music and drama. I engaged in community service. I applied for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world, and if you get it, you’re off to Oxford University in London.

I breezed through the early stages and was shortlisted to the final round. There were only 5 of us and I was the best whilst the others were there to make up the numbers. My future was set. I was off to England and would join a long list of Rhodes Scholars who became Prime Minister or CEO of a Fortune 500 or Grand Lord of Awesome.

I didn’t get the Rhodes Scholarship. It came in a very short letter. Thank you very much. The quality of candidates this year was exceptionally high. We regret to inform you… I didn’t make it past that.  I was shattered. I had staked my identity, my future, my self-worth on becoming a hot shot Lawyer from Oxford University. Now, all I was, was a reject.

I moped. I grieved. I felt sorry for myself. And eventually, I picked myself up and reflected on how I could improve. I thought about what I learned from my Rhodes experience. Three years later, I was accepted into Harvard Law School. And when I finished there, I entered Stanford Law School. I never made it to England. But I am now a Fellow of Harvard and Stanford. Which is not bad.

You will apply for 100 scholarships and Universities and jobs. You will receive lots of rejections. You will compete in competitions and you will lose. Over and over and over again.

And it’s the losing, it’s the rejections, it’s the failures that are important. It’s the failures that teach you, that improve you. Every champion, every leader, every winner… they got there, by losing. A lot. Next time the results don’t go your way, feel sad and disappointed for a while… then tell yourself, you didn’t lose, you got one step closer to being a winner. Each rejection is another page in your success story.

Seek out perspectives that are not your own.

Disagreement is uncomfortable. It feels good to stay with what’s familiar. To isolate ourselves from the ideas we don’t like and keep to our own circle of comfort.

The times I have grown the most in my life, have been the times I’ve felt uncomfortable. Going to places unfamiliar to me, speaking with people who thought different to me, hearing words confronting to me… that’s what made me better, smarter, stronger. When you are displaced, you learn to most strongly identify and defend your own principles, values, and actions.

In China, I did death penalty law work, working for a criminal defence institution supporting people on death row who couldn’t afford a lawyer. When cases were won, I’d see a grateful man sobbing and giving thanks for saving his life. When cases were lost, I’d see clients marched out of the court-room, never to be seen again. I was always surrounded by smart and articulate Chinese lawyers explaining that the death penalty is an unfortunate but necessary part of criminal justice. The death penalty is the ultimate deterrent for people who might commit crimes, and the ultimate penalty for those who did commit crimes.

Going through this experience made me realise how fundamentally against the death penalty I am. And how to organise my thoughts and arguments against it.

In Australia, I’ve done asylum seeker cases. Spending time with my clients made me better appreciate the complexities of refugee law. What rules should apply regarding who can and can not stay in our country. What are the legal, moral and intellectual underpinning of those rules.

Being in a situation where I was doing things uncomfortable, made me better understand myself and marshal arguments to defend my point of view.

Don’t be shy of the different. Be relentless in your pursuit of knowledge and actively seek out ideas that challenge you, perspectives that differ to your own. It is one of the most powerful ways to grow and strengthen your own view of the world.

Shape the Future

As a lawyer and mediator, one of my cases involved an Instagram influencer, suing a computer game company.  She said the company was profiting by selling an emote based on her tiktok dance and not compensating her.

As a negotiation coach, I’m working with a semi-conductor company based in America to negotiate the transport of microchips from its factory in Taipei to Singapore.

When I went to law school, there was no such thing as ‘computer game influencer dispute mediator’. There was no such thing as negotiation coach.  But there is now. Because that’s what I’m doing. There’s a whole range of legal things today that didn’t exist when I was a student. E-Sports Law. Space Law. Laws to address the impact of AI.

It’s not just technology that is evolving. When I started at Saints, we didn’t do welcome to country or have Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags flying above Mem Hall. We didn’t talk so openly about Domestic and Gendered Violence. Russia went by a different name and had a very different leader.  And there weren’t that many boys, that looked like me.

New technologies, new social norms, new politics. Our world is changing every day. You have the power and responsibility to shape that change.

I am a proud Saints boy. I’m also a proud Saints father. My son is in Year 4. Because of this school, he comes back with a project on plastic pollution in the oceans, he asks why can’t they stop fighting in Gaza, he talks about a parable he learned in Chapel. Saints is setting you up intellectually, morally, spiritually for the future, just like my son.

This School is walls and fields, one stone lain upon another. It is also the teachers, the leaders, the grounds-staff, the parents. Added together, this School is a nursery for the leaders of tomorrow. That’s you. Your roots will always be here, at Saints, in Adelaide, in Australia. And as you grow into mighty trees, your branches can stretch across the world.

You are on your way to becoming CEOs and millionaires, Captains of Sporting Teams, political leaders. I know you will be successful. Channel your success wisely. The world is increasingly fractured right now. Ukraine. Gaza. Afghanistan. And so many others. Dare to believe that you can change the world. Have faith in yourself and your future. The potential and the necessity to do good is everywhere.

Take inspiration from rejection. Relentlessly seek new perspectives that are not your own. Be part of shaping the future for the better. Be proud of your school, St Peters College. This is my story to you. Now it’s your turn. I look forward to hearing about your own amazing stories.