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Auckland Uni celebrates notable New Zealanders

The University of Auckland celebrates notable New Zealanders

The University of Auckland will honour seven outstanding New Zealanders in medicine, the arts, education, business and law at its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards gala dinner on Friday 3 March.

The awards, which were established in 1996, celebrate the achievements of alumni who have made significant contributions to their communities, New Zealand and internationally through excellence in their chosen professions. This year, for the first time, a Young Alumnus of the Year award will be made.

On Saturday 4 March, the Distinguished Alumni will give presentations to which members of the public are invited. Details are:

Distinguished Alumni Presentations
Saturday 4 March
Old Government House
Waterloo Quadrant


11 am
Dr Judith Aitken: “Education Reform: where to now?”
Vice-Chancellor’s Suite, Old Government House

Dr Andrew Thomson: “Missionaries, mercenaries, and madmen – a UN aid worker remembers”
Lecture Theatre, Old Government House

Dr David Skilling: “The New Zealand economy: performance, prospects and priorities”
Federation Room, Old Government House

11.45 am
Philippa Boyens: “Screenwriter? Is that an actual job? – How to foster Kiwi filmmaking talent”
Lecture Theatre, Old Government House

Mark Weldon: “The prophet in his own home – why selling ourselves short is replacing retail therapy as the new national pastime”
Federation Room, Old Government House

Hon Justice David Baragwanath: “Liberty and justice in the face of terrorist threats to society”
Vice-Chancellor’s Suite, Old Government House

For further information contact:
Bill Williams
Public Relations Officer
The University of Auckland
Phone 64 9 373 7599 ext 87698
Mobile 027 248 0253
Home 64 9 480 7984

Biographical notes on 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award winners

Judith Aitken (Arts)
BA (1971)
Leading educationalist, Dr Judith Aitken, has had a distinguished career as a public servant, author and community worker.

She has been Chief Executive of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (1988-91), where she provided strong leadership, and Chief Review Officer of the Education Review Office (1992-2000). Under her pioneering leadership, ERO reviews of schools became an accepted form of accountability, ensuring transparent, public and student-focused evaluation. The ERO report published in 1996 on the state of schooling in Mangere and Otara forced a response from the Ministry of Education and government that eventually led to the most successful school improvement initiative this country has seen.

Judith attended The University of Auckland from 1956-1958 and returned to complete her Bachelor of Arts in 1971. In 1959 she attended Auckland Secondary Teachers College. Later she went to Victoria University where she took a Masters in Public Policy and a PhD in Political Science.

In 1997 she was awarded the QSO for services to education and in 1999 she was made New Zealander of the Year by the National Business Review which described her as ‘the best thing in New Zealand education.’ Judith has also published extensively, A Woman’s Place: A Study of the Changing Roles of Women and Men in New Zealand (1975), being her first major publication.

David Baragwanath (Law)
LLB (1964)
The Honourable Justice David Baragwanath QC graduated from Auckland with a Bachelor of Laws in 1964, also receiving the Cleary Memorial Prize for the New Zealand law graduate presenting the greatest prospect of service through the legal profession.
David gained a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he completed a Bachelor of Civil Law degree (first class) in 1966. He was granted a Fulbright Travel Award to the University of Virginia in 1983 to study freedom of information and an Inns of Court Fellowship (London) in 2004.

David became a partner in the law firm then called Meredith Connell & Co, a barrister in 1977 and was made a silk in 1983. Since 1995 David has sat as a High Court Justice in the High Court and in Divisional Courts of Appeal and between 1996 and 2001 he was President of the New Zealand Law Commission. He has also been a part-time law lecturer in civil procedure and administrative law at The University of Auckland

He played a key part in radically altering the legal status of Maori in New Zealand through his work as senior counsel for the New Zealand Maori Council, and in securing a proper place for The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand’s constitutional and legal framework. He has also provided outstanding service to the university sector, notably in 1988 when he acted as senior counsel for the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury, which challenged Government restructuring proposals and thereby helped preserve university autonomy.

Philippa Boyens (Arts)
BA (1994)
Oscar winner, Philippa Boyens, is one of New Zealand’s most internationally respected screenwriters. She completed her Bachelor of Arts (majoring in English and History) at The University of Auckland in 1994, having studied part-time.

Philippa is best known as principal script-writer, along with Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, for the screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is the largest film project to date ever undertaken in New Zealand. The script was honoured with an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. In 2004 Philippa won an Oscar and a BAFTA for The Return of the King (Best Adapted Screenplay) and was nominated for both of these categories in 2002 for The Fellowship of the Ring. Her success in adapting Tolkien’s work to the screen has helped bring international recognition for the New Zealand film industry and New Zealand in general. The script has been honoured with multiple screenplay nominations in various international cinema awards. Philippa has more recently worked on Peter Jackson’s script for the much anticipated remake of King Kong released in December 2005.

Earlier in her career Philippa worked in theatre as a playwright, was a teacher, producer and editor, and was also the Director of the New Zealand Writer’s Guild. In 2000 she was named by Variety magazine in its list of Ten Best Writers to Watch.

Jonathan Hunt (Arts)
BA (1959), MA (1961)

Note: Award is to be presented in London on 20 March

The Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt ONZ is currently New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ambassador to Ireland.

Jonathan attended The University of Auckland gaining an MA (Hons) in 1961 before becoming a teacher at Kelston Boys High School (1961-1966) and tutor in history at the University (1964-1966). He was President of the Princes Street Branch of the Labour Party and he stood successfully for the seat of New Lynn in 1966, entering Parliament as the country’s youngest MP. He held the seat until 1996 when he became a List MP.

Known as ‘Father of the House’, Jonathan was the longest-serving Member of Parliament until he resigned in March 2005 to take up his current position. He served as Whip, Deputy Speaker and was a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government from 1984-1990, holding the portfolios of Telecommunications and Broadcasting, Postmaster General, Tourism and Housing. He was leader of the House from 1987-1990. Jonathan was also the instigator of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985.

In November 1989 he was appointed to the Privy Council. He was unanimously elected Speaker in December 1999 and returned to the position in 2002.

Jonathan was appointed to the Order of New Zealand (the country’s highest honour, restricted to 20 members) for services to Parliament in the New Year Honours List 2005.

Andrew Thomson (Medical and Health Sciences)
MBCHB (1988)
Medical humanitarian, aid worker, peace keeper, human rights investigator, activist and author, Dr Andrew Thomson is highly qualified to receive this award. Andrew’s desire to serve humanity through medical practice was nurtured by missionary parents.

Whilst a student at The University of Auckland’s School of Medicine from 1981 to 1987 he befriended a refugee doctor, one of about 60 doctors out of 600 who survived Pol Pot’s killing fields in Cambodia. After graduating first out of a class of 140 and working briefly at Auckland Hospital he went to Cambodia to work for the Red Cross. He then spent 13 years with the United Nations as a peacekeeper and medical doctor in Cambodia, Haiti, Rwanda and Bosnia where he documented and investigated war crimes including exhumation of mass graves, and regularly risked his life. He has made a positive contribution to conflict resolution and international war crimes prosecutions.

Andrew is co-author of the whistle-blowing book, Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story from Hell on Earth, which recounts his professional life working for aid agencies. The book charges the UN with negligence, corruption and inadequate leadership and failure to prevent genocide. After the UN refused to renew his contract in 2004 it was pressured to do so by an international firm of lawyers. Andrew continues to work for the UN as Senior Medical Officer at its headquarters in New York.

Mark Weldon (Business)
BA/BCom (1991), MCom (1993)
Mark Weldon is a distinguished scholar, Olympic swimmer and a successful businessman, all before the age of 40.

Academically, Mark has a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University, New York, a degree in International Law (Hons) also from Columbia, a Masters degree (1st Class honours) in Economics, and Bachelor degrees in Commerce and Arts from The University of Auckland.

Mark worked as an attorney in New York, and then as senior adviser to CEOs at a number of Fortune 500 companies for McKinsey & Company.

Mark has been CEO of New Zealand Exchange since June 2002. In that time he has led it through its transformation into a mutual listed company, changed the exchange’s overall approach, and brought home the role and relevance of capital markets to New Zealand’s future to both the public and government. Mark’s leadership of the NZX has marked a turning point, creating investor confidence in the New Zealand market, and attracting both national and international buyers.

Mark swam for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. He has recently joined the board of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, was an inaugural recipient of a Peter Blake Emerging Leader award, and is on the board of Springboard Trust which strives to improve capabilities of charities.

Young Alumnus of the Year: David Skilling (Business)
BCom (1992), MCom (1995)
Dr David Skilling is the founding Chief Executive of the New Zealand Institute, a think-tank that has been established to contribute new and creative thinking to the public debate on issues that matter for New Zealand’s future. From the middle of 2003, David worked with a broad group of business, community, and education leaders (including our former Vice-Chancellor, Dr John Hood and Distinguished Alumnus Chris Liddell) to set up the New Zealand Institute.

Since the public launch of the New Zealand Institute in July 2004, it has undertaken work on creating an ownership society, arguing for policies that encourage personal savings and asset ownership, and has recently launched a project that looks to increase the extent of international engagement of the New Zealand economy. The Institute produces high quality research and publishes discussion papers to stimulate public debate and achieve real-world impact.


David was previously a principal adviser at the New Zealand Treasury where he worked primarily on economic growth issues. David has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting and Finance as well as a Master of Commerce (Hons) degree in Economics from The University of Auckland. In 1994 he received the Fowlds Memorial Prize for the “most distinguished student in the Faculty of Commerce”. He also has a Master in Public Policy and a PhD in Public Policy from Harvard University.

He was a teaching Fellow at Harvard University for three years, and has also worked at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, at McKinsey & Company, and Deloitte. David has recently been appointed to the Advisory Board of The University of Auckland Business School.

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