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Retired faculty dean brought personal assets to Lincoln Uni

28 August 2012

Retired faculty dean brought strong personal assets to his Lincoln University role

Bitten by the life-long learning bug as a young man, Lincoln University’s retired Dean of Commerce, Dr Patrick Aldwell, confesses he could easily have been seen as a “professional student” in his youth and a “collector of degrees” – he has four of them plus a diploma!

His career, however, speaks otherwise. Well equipped with academic qualifications earned at top universities in three different countries, he has been able to bring a special blend of academic accomplishment, wide knowledge and strong personal and inter-personal organisational skills to his 14 years on the staff at Lincoln University.

Long-time colleague, Associate Professor Charles Lamb, now Director of Lincoln University’s Telford Division, said Dr Aldwell’s “stand out quality” was his “genuine empathy for his staff”. That was a “huge asset” as a faculty head, he said. Another quality was his ability to manage change.

That latter quality, honed in the corporatised Crown entity world where he was Acting Co-CEO of the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, probably influenced his appointment to Lincoln University in 1998. At that stage the University was entering a new era of market-influenced science management under a new vice-chancellor. Dr Aldwell understood the concept, the dynamics, and the changes that would be ahead.

Dr Aldwell’s association with Lincoln University actually started many years earlier when a farming career beckoned. After practical experience in the Gisborne area, where he had grown up, the son of a respected local GP, he undertook further farming experience in Canterbury then enrolled at Lincoln College and studied for a Diploma in Agriculture, which was awarded in 1973.

While he says that he probably wasn’t a “model student” at that stage, “for me the outdoors, animals and education were, and still are, great levellers”.

From diploma student, Patrick moved on to degree studies at Massey University and completed conjoint qualifications in education and regional economics. From there he took up a post with the Forest Research Institute in Rotorua as a scientist in the Trade, Marketing and Economics Group. While there he was awarded a scholarship to study for a PhD at the University of Washington in the United States of America and later for an MBA at Monash University, Australia.

Dr Aldwell’s return to Lincoln as a staff member was triggered in the 1990s by a chance meeting with the University’s Professor of Landscape Architecture, Simon Swaffield in Hawke’s Bay where Dr Aldwell was studying the longer term impacts of Cyclone Bola on the regional economy.

Professor Swaffield and the then Director of the Centre for Resource Management, the late Dr John Hayward, discussed the possibility of Dr Aldwell coming to work at Lincoln University. The opportunity to do so arose in January 1998, so after 19 years as a researcher, research and strategy manager and Acting Co-CEO with the Forest research Institute he accepted appointment as the new Director of the then Commerce Division.

The Faculty of Commerce, as it is now known, has always been the University’s largest single academic and teaching group and commerce qualifications have always contributed over 40 percent of the University’s qualifications awarded at graduation time. The faculty is diverse, bringing together specialists in accounting, agricultural management, business management, economics, finance, hotel management, law, marketing, and property. In Dr Aldwell’s time it also absorbed the University’s Farm Management teaching responsibilities.

“It has been an interesting job to manage and harmonise all the strands,” he says, “very satisfying and rewarding. The dean’s position is something of a lightning rod. It has been a challenge, but a joy.”

Dr Aldwell’s involvement with University activities has extended beyond his Faculty. He has been active as a judge in various competition categories within the National Bank Young Farmer Contest and he has been the Academic Director of the University’s prestigious Kellogg Rural Leaders course and also of the Horticultural Leadership Programme. He will continue as a director of the two professional development programmes, including the role of Academic Director for the Kellogg course.

Chancellor Tom Lambie thanked Dr Aldwell for his “enthusiasm and passion” in nurturing these areas of activity.

Dr Aldwell’s long connection with Lincoln University, from diploma student to faculty Dean, has another aspect to it too – his son Michael has also done his degree at the University and has gone on to work in New York for a large multinational logistics company, so there are now two Aldwells among the University’s alumni.


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