Chris Balls (1969 – 1976)

Alumnus, Chris Balls

I will start this by saying I’ve been lucky… in so many ways… school, university, parents, family, career and opportunities. I’m a big believer in the benefits of a balanced life – work hard, play hard but keeping in mind the right priorities in making your life choices.

I came to what was then Lowestoft Grammar School in 1969 with my school blazer, cap and tie, following in the footsteps of my older sister, Angela.  In the following seven years I grew a lot, played a lot of sports, listened to a lot of music, rode motorbikes and even found time to study well enough to complete O Levels and A Levels with good enough grades to enable me to move on to the University Of Nottingham to read Chemistry.

During those seven years, Lowestoft Grammar School became the Denes High School. Lots of things happened to me in that time, mostly good. I don’t remember that much about the early years to be honest, though one highlight was the educational trip to the Mediterranean on the SS Uganda, visiting many different countries – this event I remember, like it was yesterday. Memories from being horribly seasick crossing the Bay of Biscay and as we passed Lisbon in the distance, to visiting the most exotic places such as Istanbul, Varna, Athens and Venice. These great memories of course, were reinforced when the SS Uganda was deployed as a hospital ship in the Falklands War many years later. Maybe it was this great experience that shaped my thirst for travel later in my adult life.

I also remember all the sports, right the way though the school, under the guidance of Mr Maddox and Mr Wayman. I was pretty competitive and was hugely proud to be awarded the school colours for football, rugby and basketball. We had some decent teams in those years and a few people I had the pleasure to play with, football in particular, went on to play professionally, or as in my case ‘semi-professionally’. I even won the Victor Ludorum award at sports day (until the judges belatedly decided it should actually have gone to some kid called Terry Butcher!).

We had some excellent academic teachers in that time too and I think I got a pretty good all-round education; they prepared me well for the next phase of life at university.

Last memory of school… another school trip, this time in our final summer, a canoeing trip down the Ardeche River in France. What a blast – great friends, great experience and a great way to finish my time at The Denes High School.

And so to university… Nottingham turned out to be a great choice for me and enabled me to continue my ‘work hard, play hard’ theme to the end of my degree (though some might say not enough work). It’s a great city, with a really fun atmosphere, and provided the backdrop for more great memories, making more (lifelong) friends and a great education.

At the end of my degree I had decided that it was time to launch straight into the world of employment. Lucky enough to have a choice of jobs, I chose Kodak, based in Harrow, just north of London. Now for those of that may have done business classes, you may have come across Kodak as a case study. A company that was 100% dependent on a very profitable product (film), that was turned on its head in a very short time by the ‘digital revolution’ and is now still re-inventing itself, having come close to bankruptcy and just returning to profitability. Today I am still with Kodak and lived through that roller coaster ride but I’ve been lucky enough to have had new opportunities every few years and the chance to experience several international assignments, with my family. Most notable were assignments of several years in Xiamen and Shanghai in China and now for the past six years in Rochester, New York. That gave us a platform to travel extensively and give my children an outstanding education. They are true world citizens. I was exceptionally lucky to have those opportunities, sometimes it was a little scary, but they were such rewarding experiences for us all. My oldest son has just graduated from the University of Toronto and my youngest is at university here in the USA. My wife has, thankfully, supported me in everything I’ve done and made the most of her opportunities too.

So what ‘wisdom’ can I offer from all this? Firstly – put the work in to get a decent education. I’m not convinced you need a precise career plan… but whatever direction you choose, be the best you can be, then opportunities will come your way. Put yourself out there and push outside your comfort zone sometimes. Work hard to stay healthy and put your family first.

Be lucky!

July 2017

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