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Victoria’s Distinguished Alumni Awards announced

Victoria’s Distinguished Alumni Awards announced

A cricketer, arts patron and businessman, CEO, Chief Judge, scientist, dancer/choreographer and President of the New Zealand Red Cross, are the seven inaugural winners of Victoria University of Wellington’s Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Following a call for nominations by alumni, Jeremy Coney, David Gascoigne, John Allen, Chief Judge Joseph Williams, Dr Richard Furneaux, Deirdre Tarrant and Jocelyn, Lady Keith are the first recipients of the awards.

Announcing the recipients, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pat Walsh, said each winner represented distinguished achievement in their field of endeavour.

“It is an honour to recognise these New Zealander graduates who have each gone on from their tertiary studies at Victoria University to excel in vastly different disciplines and careers. In doing so, they epitomise the Victoria graduate attributes of leadership, creative and critical thinking, and communication skills.

“It is appropriate that their peers and the University recognise their success and the outstanding contributions they’ve made to their community and country.”

The seven will be presented with their awards later this year at the University’s inaugural Annual Alumni Dinner, a black tie affair at the Wellington Town Hall on 12 October, principally supported by the Wellington City Council and The Dominion Post. Distinguished Alumni Awards will be made each year at the Annual Dinner.

The following synopses provide a brief insight into the achievements of the seven Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

John Allen is the Chief Executive of New Zealand Post, having held senior management positions with the company for nine years before his appointment to the top job in 2003. He was a solicitor and Senior Associate at law firm Rudd Watts and Stone (now Minter Ellison Rudd Watts) before becoming a partner in 1989. During 1995 and 2001, John was a Visiting Lecturer in Law at Victoria University. He holds directorships with 10 companies including Datacom, Datamail, Kiwibank, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and is Chairman of the Territorial Forces Employers Support Council and Co-Chair of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.

John graduated with a Law degree from Victoria University in 1983 and became a Barrister and Solicitor in 1984.

Jeremy Coney is one of New Zealand’s most successful test and one-day cricketers, also widely regarded for his sense of humour and entertaining after-dinner speaking. Following retirement from professional cricketing he became a sports commentator, television host and author.

Following seven years as a teacher, Jeremy began a BA at Victoria University in 1980 with a double major in Education and Drama, with Music, Greek and Māori. He was appointed Head of Onslow College’s Music department, Wellington in 1981, before taking up the bat full-time as a cricketer later that year. After a move north he completed a First Class Master’s degree in English and Drama. He plans theatre training in England next year. Jeremy graduated with a BA in 1983 and received an MBE for service to cricket in 1986.

Dr Richard Furneaux (FRSNZ) is the Carbohydrate Chemistry Technology Platform Manager at Industrial Research Limited, Lower Hutt. His world-renowned team of 30 scientists is focused on the discovery and commercialistaion of ‘Glycotherapeutics’ - drugs and dietary supplements based upon knowledge of the role of carbohydrate molecules in biological processes. His recent work involves collaboration with Professor Vern Schramm at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where human clinical trials are showing promise for the treatment of T-cell cancers and potential for treating auto-immune diseases such as psoriasis. Dr Furneaux’s expertise is also playing a critical role in the burgeoning Australasian biotech sector.

Richard gained a Bachelor of Science in 1971, a Master of Science in 1973 and was awarded his PhD in 1977 – all from Victoria University.

David Gascoigne (DCNZM, CBE) has worked as a corporate lawyer (Minter Ellison Rudd Watts), arts administrator and holds an impressive list of public and private sector directorships. He is still very active in the corporate sector, including Chairmanship of Transpower New Zealand Limited. Current arts administration positions include Chairman of NBR New Zealand Opera and of the publicly-funded New Zealand Film Production Fund. He has just completed a 10-year term as a board member of Te Papa. His versatility is evident as a founding Trustee and then as Executive Chairman of the New Zealand International Arts Festival and as chair of the successful Rugby World Cup 2011 Bid Advisory Committee.

David graduated from Victoria University in 1964 with a Master of Law. He was awarded the CBE in 1989 for his services to film, and the DCNZM in 2005 for services to the arts and business.

Jocelyn, Lady Keith (CBE) is National President of the New Zealand Red Cross and a former registered general and obstetric nurse. She has been president of the New Zealand Nurses Association, former head of Victoria University’s Department of Nursing Studies and friend of the Graduate School of Nursing and Midwifery. She has held many professional, academic, public and private sector roles in nursing and health-related fields.

Her outstanding contribution to the University’s advancement was recognised in 2003 with the awarding of an inaugural Hunter Fellowship – particularly for her role as President of the Alumni Association. She has been a member of the National Council of Women and on the Advisory Board of a wide range of women’s organisations.

Jocelyn, Lady Keith graduated from Victoria University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours.

Deirdre Tarrant (MNZM, 2000) has a distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer and director. Her ballet background was with Jeane Horne and the then New Zealand Ballet Company. An overseas study grant took her to dance in London and Europe and to discover contemporary dance in New York.

She founded the Footnote Dance Company in 1985 and has led it to become a national treasure of choreography and dance exploration. She is principal of the Tarrant Dance Studios and committed to youth performance in the work of The Deirdre Tarrant Youth Theatre. She has held a wide range of advisory roles for national dance bodies, including Board positions on DANZ, the New Zealand School of Dance, Whitireia Performing Arts and time as an advisor for the Dance Curriculum for the Ministry of Education and the Wellington Teachers College of Education. She works internationally both as a freelance teacher and in her role as a Vocational Examiner for the Royal Academy of Dance.

Deirdre graduated from Victoria University with a BA in 1967.

Chief Judge Joseph Williams (Ngāti Pukenga, Te Arawa) is head of the Māori Land Court and Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal. He is an internationally recognised expert in indigenous rights law and one of New Zealand's leading specialists in Māori issues. As well as being the youngest person to have been appointed Chief Judge of the Māori Land Court in 1999, he was the first Māori lecturer in law at Victoria University and established the first unit specialising in Māori issues at law firm Kensington Swan.

Judge Williams gained his law degree from Victoria University in 1986 and his Master’s from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In 1999, he was awarded the Māori students millennium prize as a former student of Victoria University.


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