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Auck Uni Issues Medallions For Distinguished Grads

University of Auckland

Leading figures in the arts, entertainment, museums, engineering and Maoridom will receive this year's Distinguished Alumni Awards from the University of Auckland.

They will be honoured at the annual dinner of the University's Alumni Association at the Railway Campus, Auckland on Saturday, November 13.

The awards are for Auckland graduates who have made outstanding contributions to their professions, to their communities and to the nation.

The five winners are:

Gretchen Albrecht (DipFA (Hons) 1964) of Auckland is New Zealand’s most established and recognised woman artist. To date she has had 50 individual exhibitions and 62 selected group exhibitions both in this country and in prestigious venues abroad. She is represented in major art collections both within New Zealand and overseas and has promoted New Zealand art internationally. Gretchen Albrecht has always been generous in her assistance to younger, yet-to-be-discovered artists.

John La Roche (BE 1962) of Auckland has had a successful career as a professional engineer both in New Zealand and overseas. He has channelled his concerns for engineering ethics, environmental issues, overseas aid and disaster relief into work for such groups as Engineers for Social Responsibility, Water for Survival and Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief. His expertise has taken him to many Third World countries to inspect, consult on and manage rural water projects.

Dr Sidney (Hirini) Moko Mead (BA 1964, MA 1965, PhD 1968 Southern Illinois) from Wellington, of Ngati Awa, Tuwharetoa and Tuhourangi tribal descent, is an international leader in Oceanic art as well as a specialist in Maori language and culture studies, writer and composer. While he was Professor in Maori at Victoria University of Wellington, the University Marae (Te Herenga Waka) was developed, a Kohanga Reo was established and Maori Studies became a department in its own right. He was co-curator of the Te Maori exhibition that travelled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Alan Smythe (BA 1972, MA 1973) of Auckland is a noted visual designer who has in the last decade brought public entertainment and enjoyment to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. His now famous operas and symphonies in the park and the national dragon boat festivals have raised millions of dollars for charity. He has produced scripts for successful television series based on well-known New Zealand short stories. Earlier in his career he was founding publisher of The London Review of Books which became Britain’s most prestigious literary periodical.

Dame Cheryll Sotheran (BA 1967, MA 1969) of Wellington is renowned internationally as a museum professional. Her commitment to positioning museums at the heart of their communities culminated in her appointment as first chief executive of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. Under her inspired leadership, Te Papa materialised into a world-class museum, built to time and under budget and attracting huge numbers of visitors. Dame Cheryll has received many awards for services to arts and culture.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards were instituted three years ago. Previous winners are Hugh Fletcher, Elsie Locke, Trevor Richards, Mary Schnackenberg and Richard Yan in 1996; Ian Athfield, Michael Jones, Dr Claudia Orange, Justice Judith Potter and Sir Wilson Whineray in 1997; Dr Alan Bollard, Dr Penelope Brook Cowen, Cyril Firth, Maurice Gee and Emeritus Professor Sir Graham Liggins in 1998.

Winners receive a silver medallion designed by Professor Robert Ellis.

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