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Honorary Awards for Rocky Horror Author, Former Wintec Chair

28 November, 2012

Wintec Honorary Awards for Rocky Horror Author & Former Wintec Chair

The author and star of the cult musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a former Wintec Council chair and Waikato public relations practitioner will have honorary awards conferred upon them next year by Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology).

Richard O’Brien is being awarded an honorary Master of Arts for his contributions to the Arts and commitment to the Waikato arts community.

Born in England in 1942, O’Brien emigrated to Tauranga at the age of ten with his family and later spent time working in Hamilton as a barber. In 1965 he returned to England getting a break into the British film industry by riding horses in movies - a skill he learnt in New Zealand.

With no desire to continue on as a full-time stuntman, he enrolled at drama school. After working backstage in many West End theatres and a flurry of acting roles, O’Brien went on to write and star in the cult musical, The Rocky Horror Show which was later adapted into the film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His character of Riff Raff has since been made into a statue on the site of Hamilton’s former Embassy Theatre in Victoria Street.

As well as acting, O’Brien’s held a variety of presenting roles and has written a number of musical and stage shows in a career that spans nearly 50 years.

In July this year, he appeared on stage at Hamilton’s Founders Theatre as the character Fagin in Hamilton Operatic Society’s production of Oliver. He also celebrated his 70th birthday in Hamilton with a fundraising concert for Starship Children’s Hospital at the Founders Theatre.

On accepting the honorary award O’Brien says: “A Master of Arts Degree? How splendid to finally be able to prove that my teachers were wrong about me. It is true that the school play that I was in, was lifted out the mundane into a richer brew of theatrical wonder after I had combed white gunk through my fourteen year old hair and shape-shifted myself into the form of an old, railway stationmaster in Cornwell.”

“For a fleeting moment I felt that school and me may have been able to call an uneasy truce but then, Pythagorus turned up, once again, with one of his theorems and the bitter winds of truth blew frost upon that cosy moment of rosy glow.”

“Now I am an academic. Eat your hearts out all those without honours. I am most grateful and truly excited by this thoughtful and kind act of Wintec.”

Gordon Chesterman is being awarded an honorary fellowship, Wintec’s highest honour, for his contribution to Wintec as a Council member and Chair for more than a decade, his advocacy for its School of Media Arts, and for services to public relations in the Waikato region.

Amongst his achievements, Chesterman established and ran his own marketing communications company in Hamilton for 14 years; was the national president and is currently a life member for the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand; was a reporter for the Waikato Times; has edited a number of publications; worked as the director of several local companies including Hamilton International Airport; was the Chair of the Wintec Council for ten years, and a member of the Waikato District Health Board.

Chesterman has won many national and international awards for journalism, public relations and marketing. He still spends some time guest lecturing at the university and Wintec, and is currently Hamilton City Council’s deputy mayor. He has served many Waikato businesses and the community over the years and is a strong advocate for media and the creative industries.

He started on the Wintec Council in 2000, then two years later became Chair - a position he held until April this year. Chesterman was Chair during a period of significant change for the organisation which included the building of the Gallagher Hub, the Avalon (now Rotokauri) hub, and the refurbishment of Wintec House. These buildings re-shaped the look and feel of Wintec’s campuses.

On accepting the honorary award Chesterman says: “It's a great honour, particularly because the past 12 years on the Wintec council has been such a large and positive part of my life.”

“While the Fellowship is conferred on a personal basis, it's more a reflection of the work and outcomes from a large group of people who make up the Wintec team. Because of the commitment and passion of that team, Wintec is now one of New Zealand's best performing tertiary institutes in the sector.”

“Leading the Wintec team, as chair of council, has given me a great deal of pride in delivering outcomes for our students and the employers of the region.”

Wintec chair Mary Cave-Palmer said the honorary award for Gordon Chesterman will be conferred during the School of Media Arts graduation ceremony in March next year, with Richard O’Brien’s conferment occasion still to be confirmed.

Wintec honorary recipients must have made a significant contribution to Wintec, the region or the nation over a number of years through innovation in industry or business, scholarship and research or enhancing New Zealand society.

Honorary fellows and degrees are approved by the Wintec Council following recommendations made by the Honorary Degree Nominations Committee which annually reviews honorary nominations from Wintec staff and council members.


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