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Couple's record bequest 'humbling'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Couple's record bequest 'humbling'

A Palmerston North couple have made the largest donation received by the Massey University Foundation, an endowment of more than $1.2 million.

The late Kenneth and Elizabeth Powell decided several years ago that they wanted upon their deaths to establish a fund to support the study of technology in engineering and health at Massey, although neither of them had been students at the University. Mr Powell, an engineer and specialist in aircraft maintenance, said at the time that as technology and health had been central to their lives they wanted to give young enthusiasts in their home city "an extra edge".

Mr Powell, a World War II veteran who served in the Pacific as instrument fitter with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, died in February this year, aged 88. He did his apprenticeship as an instrument fitter with Union Airways at the Palmerston North Airport at Milson and later established Aero and General Instruments Ltd on the corner of Bourke and Cuba Streets. Mrs Powell was a registered nurse, who trained at Wellington Hospital, and completed her training as a midwife at Palmerston North Hospital, where she worked as well as at the former Rostrata Maternity Home in the city. They married in 1958. She died in October 2006, aged 96.

Their nephew, Rangi Royal, 76, an executor of their estate, says he and Mr Powell shared many common interests, including in rugby, hunting and fishing. Mr Royal was an engineer-fitter with the RNZAF and they often worked together on machinery. "Ken was a very, very clever engineer," Mr Royal says. "For example he would make new cogs for all the Palmerston North taxi meters whenever prices changed."

When Mr Royal gave the eulogy at Mr Powell's funeral, he recalled a man of great integrity, honesty, humility and modesty – someone who continued working from home as a hobby in retirement. "I was always getting at Ken for undercharging for the knowledge and time he expended on what he did," Mr Royal says. Although they had no children of their own, the Powells adored the children of the wider family. "They lived simply but they were extremely generous with their time for others and the family. When you consider their lifestyle, the fact there are other recipients of the estate the size of the bequest to the foundation is quite amazing."

Assistant Vice-Chancellor and University Registrar Stuart Morriss yesterday thanked Mr Royal and the other estate executor David Stephen, of Wanganui, for their work in winding up the estate and ensuring the smooth transfer of the funds that will enable ongoing provision of grants and scholarships for students in line with the Powells' wishes.

"We're incredibly grateful to Mr and Mrs Powell, and are privileged to be able to develop a programme of scholarships that will provide lasting benefits to generations of Massey students," Mr Morriss said.

The foundation, established in 2004 as Massey's registered charity, provides funding for scholarships and research projects from donations and bequests. It has about $15 million under management and aims to raise about $2 million a year, with a goal of having $100 million endowed that will enable it to spend about $5 million a year on scholarships and projects that would not otherwise be funded.

Director Mitch Murdoch says the receipt of the Powell's endowment has been a very humbling experience for staff. "For a couple that had no direct connection with the University to choose to give it to Massey for the benefit of future students is amazing."


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