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Champions of free speech and the humanities

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Champions of free speech and the humanities

A former newspaper and magazine editor and a world expert on French exploration of the Pacific will receive honorary doctorates from Massey niversity next month.

Champion of free speech

Distinguished journalist, editor and educator Geoff Baylis will be awarded Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) at the graduation ceremony for College of Business graduands in Wellington on 26 May.

Geoff Baylis is a former editor of the Dominion and the Listener, and played a significant role in the development of programmes for the University’s School of Journalism which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Mr Baylis worked on newspapers in Fleet Street as well as in Croydon, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool, Luton, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, editing three different dailies before becoming Assistant Editor of London’s Daily Mail

In 1982 he was appointed editor of the Dominion newspaper in Wellington. Under his leadership the newspaper lent its support to the campaign for universal childhood vaccination against measles and to the fight against AIDS. Mr Baylis also became known as a guardian of free speech, most notably over the publication of a leaked wage-talks document which led to an unprecedented and successful complaint to the Press Council about a ban imposed by then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

Mr Baylis also successfully opposed Britain’s Attorney General who took action against Wellington Newspapers over the publication of excerpts from Peter Wright’s controversial book Spycatcher.

Geoff Baylis became the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief of the Listener in 1989 and oversaw the introduction of computerisation, the magazine’s change in format from A3 to A4 and an emphasis on ‘investigative edge’.

After ‘retiring’ Geoff Baylis founded the journalism programme at Whitireia Community Polytechnic in Porirua. He was awarded the New Zealand Medal in 1990.

Champion of the Humanities

Professor John Dunmore was the University’s Foundation Dean of Humanities and is a University Emeritus Professor. He will receive a Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) on Friday 12 May in Palmerston North.

Born in France and educated in France and New Zealand, he became the
University’s first Professor of French in 1966 and was Dean of Humanities from 1968 to 81. He was a strong supporter of the Humanities and a tireless advocate of the importance of language learning, in schools as well as at tertiary level. He established teaching programmes in European and Asian languages, linguistics and second language teaching.

He also became the preeminent researcher on the exploration of the Pacific by the French, breaking new ground and stimulating further research by others.

His studies of original logs and journals of the voyages of the three great French navigators, Bougainville, Surville and La Pérouse, have resulted in 10 major academic books. They include the two-volume French Explorers in the Pacific and The Fateful Voyage of the St Jean-Baptiste, which gained the Wattie Book of the Year award in 1970.

He has also produced books written for general readers,. His other interests and publications include drama, political writing (for example, a life of Norman Kirk), stories set in the Pacific for school children, study manuals and political thrillers, under a pseudonym.

Following his retirement in 1984 he became an Emeritus Professor, and was awarded a Massey Medal in 1993. New Zealand recognition included a 1990 New Zealand Medal, and in 2001 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.


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