Neuroscientist Sir Richard Faull made alumni of former high school
Whether he's accepting a knighthood or the highest award his former school has to offer, the words of his mother are always in the back of Sir Richard Faull's mind.
"You just keep your feet on the ground and you do what you do to the best of your ability," the acclaimed neuroscientist said before he was inducted into the Alumni Meriti group at New Plymouth Boys' High School (NPBHS) on Friday.
In receiving the award, Faull joined the likes of Sir Graeme Douglas, Sir John Graham, Sir David Levene and Sir Roderick Deane.
But speaking to a full school assembly, Faull told the students he had come from the same place they were at and they all had the potential to end up where he was.
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"I'm just a Taranaki boy who grew up on a farm in Tikorangi so I'm no different to anyone else in this room, I'm just a bit older," he said with a smile.
A professor at the University of Auckland, Faull set up the Centre for Brain Research in 2009 which has since become one of the largest brain banks in the world, and is also the patron of Alzheimer's New Zealand.
His schooling started out in rural Taranaki and as his parents owned the Tikorangi general store, he and his four brothers would often be out delivering the goods around town.
"We learned how to talk to people, my mum and dad said that people are the most important thing in the world," he told the students.
"Dad said the customer is always right and you've got to look after them. That meant having empathy with people, having compassion with people."
Those were traits he had carried with him throughout his life and still used when dealing with patients.
Faull doesn't travel anywhere without his "second brain", a real human brain "infiltrated with resin" to preserve it and as he held up in front of the assembly, he showed how unique each one is.
"Everyone's brain is different, and that gives you potential in life," he said.
"I didn't realise it when I was sitting there but you get opportunities at every stage of your life and you've got to take those opportunities."
He told the students to put their best into whatever it was they wanted to do.
"If you're a plumber, be the best plumber in the world, if you're a jet pilot, be the best jet pilot in the world," he said.
"If you have a choice between one thing and another, go with what you love."
Headmaster Paul Veric said while Faull was at the top of his chosen field internationally, he was still able to retain outstanding levels of humility and dignity.
"This is the type of humility and dignity we all aspire to," he said.