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Passion for education and Asian history drives graduate

Passion for education and Asian history drives graduate

Peter Tohill has made education a life-long passion.

The former army Major was today capped with his third qualification, a Graduate Diploma in Arts from the University of Auckland.

Peter majored in Asian Studies, a topic he’s attracted to because of his time serving in the Vietnam War and military postings in Singapore and Malaysia.

At 77, he’s the oldest graduate in today’s Spring Graduation at the university, something that led to some confusion with his fellow students on his first day.

“When I walked in for my first lecture many of the students stood up because they thought I was the lecturer,” he laughs.

Peter signed-up for the Graduate Diploma when he became aware of the very broad scope of the Asian Studies discipline at the University.

“I came into the University for something else one day and I didn’t even know there was an Asian Studies section. I came across this booklet and the first thing I saw was Korean Studies.”

Later he was also able to study a paper that included deforestation in China under the leadership of Mao Tse Tung.

He found the University environment very enjoyable. He is particularly grateful for the support he received from library staff.

“I was so impressed with the young students in the classes. They were so articulate and intelligent,” he says.

“It made me think, we’ve certainly got a future in this country with these sort of students around. They work damn hard.”

Peter completed his first degree, a BA (History) at Massey University, in 1988 when he was Executive Director of the Race Relations office in Auckland when Hiwi Tauroa was the Race Relations Conciliator.

“I saw that I needed to understand more Maori and Hiwi certainly encouraged me. The papers in Te Reo Maori set me on the path to further study.”

In 1993 after 13 years in Race Relations he retired. He went back to Massey and completed a Graduate Diploma in History in 2000, followed by his BA (Hons) in 2008.

Peter, who lives in Castor Bay, has previously helped migrant students as an English tutor and has been responsible for organising Korean and Japanese student visits to New Zealand. He’s also recently published a text: New Zealand Idioms and Colloquial English, which has been translated into Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

He is considering further studies at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education.


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