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Distinguished New Zealand Alumni to be Honoured

Distinguished alumni to be honoured

Some of New Zealand’s most influential leaders, thinkers and creative talent will be honoured with a Distinguished Alumni Award from Victoria University of Wellington.

The University will present awards in April 2011 to six alumni who have made an outstanding contribution in their field. They are film director Taika Waititi, professional accountant John Shewan, artist Piera McArthur, lawyer Sir Thomas Gault, entrepreneur Rod Drury and former Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says the recipients illustrate the high calibre of Victoria’s alumni and the University is proud to be celebrating their achievements.

“These people have made an exceptional contribution to their various disciplines and professions and to New Zealand as a whole,” says Professor Walsh.

“The awards illustrate the steps to success that Victoria graduates undertake and all the winners portray the qualities that we aim to instil, including leadership, critical and creative thinking and a commitment to excellence.”

Victoria has presented Distinguished Alumni Awards since 2006, introducing the accolades as a way of recognising and honouring the contribution made by its graduates.
The following synopses provide a brief insight into the achievements of the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award winners.

Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi is a film director, writer, comedian and actor who has gained an international following.

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He has written and directed a number of award-winning films and his second feature film Boy premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, and won top prize in its section at the Berlin Film Festival. It has since become the highest grossing New Zealand film of all time.

Earlier credits include being nominated Best Actor in the New Zealand Film Awards for his role in the film Scarfies and an Academy Award nomination for Two Cars, One Night.
Taika graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1997.

John Shewan
John Shewan is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded professional accountants

He joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) early in his career and went on to specialise in corporate tax consultancy and tax policy. He became Chairman of PwC in 2003

John is a well-known commentator on tax matters and has been influential in the reform of the tax system, including being part of the Victoria University Tax Working Group whose recommendations on tax reform featured prominently in the 2010 Budget.

Throughout his career, John has provided advice and leadership to Victoria’s Faculty of Commerce and Administration including being Chair of its Advisory Board.

John graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration (BCA) with Honours in 1977.

Piera McArthur
Piera McArthur is a leading New Zealand painter whose original style is characterised by vibrant colour, movement and humour.

She lived overseas for many years exhibiting in Paris, London, New York, Sydney and Moscow between 1975 and 1990. This established her career as a painter and also presented opportunities for cultural diplomacy and to enhance New Zealand’s reputation internationally.

In Moscow, Piera was the first New Zealander to have a solo show at the New Tretiakov Gallery.

Over the past 20 years, she has exhibited extensively around New Zealand and undertaken commissions both locally and overseas.

Sir Thomas Gault
Sir Thomas Gault is one of the most distinguished members of New Zealand’s legal profession.

During 20 years with law firm A J Park & Son, he earned a reputation as a rigorous lawyer and built strong expertise in intellectual property.

Sir Thomas was appointed a High Court judge in 1987, rising through the ranks to become President of the Court of Appeal in 2002. He was a member of the inaugural bench of the Supreme Court of New Zealand and is also a member of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. He served as Captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 2005.

Sir Thomas was knighted in 2009.

He graduated from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) in 1962 and a Master of Laws (LLM) in 1963.

Rod Drury
Rod Drury is an entrepreneur who is passionate about New Zealand and about building a strong high-tech business economy.

Rod has started and grown a series of New Zealand technology companies including accounting software company Xero of which he is CEO.

He has twice been named the Hi-Tech New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year, has received a KEA World Class New Zealander Award and, in 2009, won the prestigious Flying Kiwi award and was admitted to the New Zealand Hi-Tech Hall of Fame.

Rod is on the Board of the New Zealand Stock Exchange and a member of the Victoria University Commerce Faculty Advisory Board.

He graduated from Victoria University with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration (BCA) in 1987.

Kerry Prendergast
Kerry Prendergast has had a long and distinguished career in local body politics including nine years as the Mayor of Wellington.

She served as a Tawa Borough Councillor and a Wellington City Councillor before successfully contesting the capital city mayoralty in 2001.

Kerry, whose professional background is in the health sector, also completed two terms as Vice-President of Local Government New Zealand.

She has been a Director of Wellington International Airport Ltd for nine years and is active in a wide range of other organisations including the Joe Aspell Trust and the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.

Kerry graduated from Victoria University with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2004.


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