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Leading philanthropist honoured

Leading philanthropist honoured

One of New Zealand’s leading philanthropists, known for his insightful contributions to education and welfare, is to receive an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree from Victoria University of Wellington at its December graduation ceremony.

Sir Roy McKenzie ONZ, KBE, has spent more than 50 years consistently contributing funds to areas of need in New Zealand society, focusing on improving education for disadvantaged children, early intervention, and research into the welfare of families. In addition to his financial contribution, Sir Roy has taken a personal guiding role in these projects and has established many ventures from his own assessment of community needs.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon says Sir Roy’s foresight in supporting areas of need in society has resulted in many New Zealanders living fuller and happier lives.

“The role of the State as provider has diminished considerably over the past 30 years meaning that the role and the responsibilities of charitable trusts have increased dramatically. Sir Roy’s perception of ‘gaps’ in community need and the solutions he has personally spearheaded are making a positive difference to society – from people in the Deaf community through to children coping with living in stepfamilies.

“It is said that the giving away of money calls for more skill and judgment than the making of it. The insight, effort and generosity Sir Roy has shown in selecting and overseeing his causes will have beneficial repercussions for New Zealand society for many years to come.”

As the heir to the McKenzie retail chain, Sir Roy began training as an accountant at Otago University in 1941. The Second World War interrupted his studies and he served in the RNZAF and RAF on Bomber Command until 1946. He returned to New Zealand to complete his studies at Victoria University. In 1948, he was registered as an Associate Chartered Accountant and commenced work for McKenzies (NZ) Ltd, the family firm. From 1949 to 1970 he was the Executive Director. He also held a number of company directorships including Chairman of Rangatira Ltd, and Founding Director of both Ruapehu Alpine Lifts and the James Cook Hotel.

Sir Roy's contribution to philanthropy in New Zealand has been outstanding. He was on the J R McKenzie Trust Board from 1947-93, and chaired it for 17 years; in addition he substantially increased the Trust's assets. He also set up two other grant-making bodies – the McKenzie Education Foundation and the Roy McKenzie Foundation, both of which were renowned for their innovative approaches to supporting community endeavour. He still serves on the Deaf Decade Trust, the J R McKenzie Youth Education Fund and the Nga Manu Nature Reserve Trust.

Sir Roy’s involvement in philanthropy has been matched by his direct activity in community organisations. He has been prominent in developing and supporting many organisations, including Outward Bound Trust, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, Birthright, the Women’s Refuge, Te Omanga Hospice, SPELD NZ Ltd, Seabrook McKenzie Centre, The McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch, and others. It is estimated that Sir Roy has directed more than $50 million towards these organisations.

Victoria University’s staff and students have been important beneficiaries of Sir Roy’s sustained support and leadership. Through the range of projects which he has funded, Sir Roy has shown both long-term vision and practical concern for wellbeing of students, particularly those facing disadvantage.

In 1971, the McKenzie Education Foundation funded the University Teaching Development Centre – the first specialist tertiary teaching centre of its kind in New Zealand designed to identify and deliver standards of teaching excellence for academic staff. The Roy McKenzie Foundation also funded the establishment of the Sign Language Dictionary Project, which was completed by a team of Deaf and hearing researchers over the period 1992-1997. In 1995, Sir Roy created a scholarship for Palliative Care Nursing students. Then, in 2002, he supported the establishment of the Roy McKenzie Centre for the Study of Families, which carries out important research into family formations, transitions and relationships in New Zealand. These are but a few examples of Sir Roy’s contribution to the University.

Sir Roy has received many awards in recognition of his contributions, including the Order of New Zealand, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Honorary Doctor of Literature at Massey University. He has been an active Rotarian, receiving their highest international 'service above self' award in 1996 and the rare Paul Harris Five Jewel Award in 1997.

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