Corkery, Vincent J., Brother

1928 - 2016
Educator, Brother Director of St. Michael’s Institution, Ipoh
Roman Catholic

Brother Vincent Jeremiah Corkery was born in Liscahane, Cork County, Ireland on November 4, 1928. He joined the La Salle Brothers, a Roman Catholic teaching fraternity also known as Brothers of the Christian Schools, on August 24, 1942 and took his vows as a Brother when he was 17. 

In 1948, aged barely 20, he set sail for Malaya to embark on his first teaching post as a La Salle Brother. However, when he disembarked in Penang, he was told by the Brothers at St. Xavier’s Institution to get back on the ship and continue his journey to Singapore. There, he taught at St. Patrick’s School (1948-1953) and St. Joseph’s Institution (1954). In 1954, he returned to Ireland for further studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history and political thought from the University College in Dublin in 1957.

Brother Vincent returned to Malaya the same year and was posted to St. Michael’s Institution (SMI) in Ipoh, which he would call home for the next 59 years. He taught English, literature and history to Form Six students. Former SMI principal Chan Nyook Ying remembered him as a master of the English language who had great affinity for Shakespeare and poetry besides his deep knowledge of other subjects including politics, the Bible and languages such as French and Latin.[1] A man of keen intellect, he was humble and never showed off his great learning. Apart from his intellectual achievements, he was also an effective counsellor and guide.

He was the Brother Sub-director of St. Michael’s from 1958-1971. In 1969, he went to the University of Cambridge to pursue a postgraduate certificate in education. He completed his course in 1970 and was appointed Brother Director in 1971, taking over from Brother Ultan Paul. When Brother Ultan returned in 1976 after further studies, Brother Vincent returned to teaching which he loved and devoted time to the Catholic charismatic movement. He took over again as Brother Director in 1986 when Brother Ultan retired, until his own retirement in 1988. 

As Brother Director, Brother Vincent introduced several radical reforms at St. Michael’s. He did away with streaming according to academic ability and introduced mixed ability classes, which is still practiced at the school today. His reforms improved Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (Lower Certificate of Education) results by 10 per cent and he boosted esprit de corps through sports.[2]

As with other Brothers who taught in Malaysia, the financial remuneration provided to him was barely adequate. His last-drawn monthly salary as principal was RM1,000 and when he retired in 1988, he did not qualify for a government pension or other retirement benefits. After his retirement, the La Sallian communal fund provided him RM1,000 a month for food and car maintenance.[3]

Post-retirement, Brother Vincent took up a refresher course in French language and culture at the University of Angers, France. He then went to Rome to study the traditional pedagogy of the Brotherhood which was founded in the 17th century.

He continued to serve the wider Lasallian organisation and community in several ways. In 1994, he became secretary for the Asia-Pacific network of the Lasallian Brothers. “Most of my life I had been living within the St Michael’s compound when suddenly I found myself all over Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, India, the Philippines, Japan and Australia. I later resigned as secretary in 2004 as the travelling was getting too much for me,” he said in an interview with the e-Lasallian Network.[4]

He also served a brief stint as the deputy director of the Stella Maris Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur. Brother Vincent was the supervisor for oral English for Perak, secretary-general for the Conference of Heads of Secondary Schools, Peninsular Malaysia and a founding member of the Perak Historical Society. Even after turning 82 in November 2010, he continued to immerse himself in educating the young and less fortunate as director of the La Salle Centre for Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, writing books, documenting articles and helping to raise funds for projects carried out by the Centre located in SMI itself and for SMI. He was also involved in the Regional La Salle Education Council, a movement and think-tank to consolidate and revitalise the La Salle schools.

Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd chief executive officer and SMI alumnus Tan Sri Lee Oi Hian noted that Brother Vincent had always worked as a team with Brother Ultan Paul. “He complemented Brother Paul well. In fact, the many things that St Michael’s is today is a result of that historic partnership but then Brother Vincent would not take glory for himself. Brother Vincent’s spirit of gentleness, genuine love and humour, as well as Christ-like values, inspired all of us. He reminded us that education is for the masses.”[5]

In recognition of his contribution to education and SMI, Brother Vincent was conferred the Dato’ Paduka Mahkota Perak award with the Datuk title on April 19, 2010 in conjunction with the 82nd birthday of the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah. In April 2014, he released his autobiography titled Life Ever Dawning, and celebrated his 70th jubilee as a La Salle Brother in 2015. Brother Vincent passed away from pneumonia on March 22, 2016 at Fatima Hospital, Ipoh at the age of 87 and was laid to rest in the grounds of St. Michael’s Church.         

More than 2,000 Michaelians and friends of Brother Vincent attended the funeral service which was presided by His Excellency, Bishop Sebastian Francis, of the Penang diocese. In his homily, Bishop Sebastian said, “Bro Vincent was a man deeply in love with Jesus, his Master, Lord and Saviour and when you are deeply in love with Jesus, it is reflected in your face. You will embrace all, as Jesus did, and be inclusive of all. Bro Vincent embraced all, and spoke as Jesus did and he listened as Jesus listened. He was a great writer too, and although he didn’t shout or cry out, he made his voice heard when it came to the education of the young and his mission.”

Former SMI principal Chan Nyook Ying said Brother Vincent recognised the uniqueness of every student and that he understood the psyche of the adolescent who was entrusted to him. “... his was the approach that is today known as ‘the last, the lost and the least”. Countless boys and girls were shaped by his loving kindness, deep wisdom and broad learning… As a friend to many Brother Vincent was always soft-spoken, considerate and captivating,” she added.[6]

Indeed, when this writer was appointed principal of SMI in 1998, both Brother Vincent and Brother Paul were his source of inspiration, courage and good counsel. After Brother Paul passed away in 2000, Brother Vincent wore the mantle of the patriarch of the Michaelian community and was the rallying point who continued to unite the school, the alumni and the Board of Governors in faith, zeal and service. It was God’s blessing to St. Michael’s that a man of such intellectual depth, idealism and personal holiness was destined for the school. [7]


  1. ^ “St Michael's remembers Brother Vincent Corkery, educator and Lasallian icon”,
  2. ^ “In memory of Bro. Vincent Corkery”,
  3. ^ Reverend Brother Vincent Corkery & La Salle Brothers”,
  4. ^ “Bro. Vincent Corkery, a name synonymous with St. Michael's Ipoh”,
  5. ^ “Bro. Vincent Corkery, a name synonymous with St. Michael's Ipoh”,
  6. ^ “St Michael's remembers Brother Vincent Corkery, educator and Lasallian icon”,
  7. ^ “Brother Vincent Corkery”,

Louis Rozario Doss 

The writer was the principal of St Michael’s Institution, Ipoh (1998-2005) and an alumnus of St. Michael’s, Ipoh and St Anthony’s, Teluk Intan, Perak.