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Honorary Doctorates for chemist, diaspora expert

Honorary Doctorates for world class chemist and Irish Diaspora expert

Victoria University of Wellington will confer honorary degrees on a world-class chemist and an international authority on the Irish diaspora.

Since graduating from Victoria University with a PhD in Organic Chemistry in 1979, Professor Martin Banwell has made influential contributions to the discipline and is one of Australasia’s most highly regarded chemists.

His principal area of research is the synthesis of biologically active organic molecules of relevance to medicine and his work has had a major impact upon the field, including collaboration with major chemical pharmaceutical companies world-wide, such as BASF and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

He is currently Director of the Research School of Chemistry at the Australian National University, playing an important leadership role—responsible for supervising some 240 staff and students and overseeing a budget of $18 million.

He is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, has been a member of the editorial boards of many international journals and has won numerous international honours and awards.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says Professor Banwell’s work as a chemist is regarded as highly creative, original and world class.

“This University will be honoured to count him amongst its honorary graduates.”

Professor Donald Akenson is a humanities scholar of the highest international standing and an acknowledged international authority on the Irish Diaspora. He has a long relationship with Victoria University’s Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies.

A professor of History at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, since 1974, he was appointed Douglas Professor of Canadian and Colonial History at that university in 2003. He has written 21 scholarly monographs, co-authored three, and also published five historical novels.

In 1988 he came to Victoria University on a John David Stout Fellowship, which initiated his relationship with Victoria. The Fellowship produced the book Half the World From Home: Perspectives on the Irish in New Zealand, published by Victoria University Press in 1990. It established a benchmark for migration studies and Pakeha ethnic history in New Zealand, at the same time signposting this country in international Diaspora Studies

Professor Pat Walsh says Professor Akenson’s contribution to Victoria University has intellectually enriched the Stout Research Centre, and been influential in wider New Zealand scholarly and community circles.

“No other distinguished international scholar in the Humanities has maintained such a close association with the Stout Research Centre, indeed with Victoria University as a whole, over the past quarter century. It is very appropriate for us to recognise and celebrate his contributions.”

Martin Banwell will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Science at Victoria University’s May graduation in 2010. Donald Akenson will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature in December 2010.


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