Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Graham Henry, Russia-based economist and merchant banker Stephen Jennings and highly regarded New Zealand businesswoman and company director Sue Suckling are among those recognised as distinguished alumni of Massey University at an awards function in Wellington tonight.
Sir Graham Henry, who graduated in 1980 with a Bachelor of Education, won the supreme honour – the Sir Geoffrey Peren Medal – at this year’s Defining Excellence Awards.
The awards recognise achievements by Massey graduates and by staff in research and teaching. Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says Massey aims to be New Zealand's defining university through its contribution to the future of the nation. "We do that by taking the best of the new New Zealand to the rest of the world. Of course, it is people who make the actual difference. Massey has outstanding staff and high-achieving alumni located all over the globe. Tonight we recognise their contribution to both the University and to the wider community."
The Sir Geoffrey Peren Medal, named after Massey founding principal, recognises a graduate who has reached the highest level of achievement in business or professional life or who has been of significant service to the University, community or nation.
Sir Graham's award is in recognition of his teaching and rugby coaching. He was a teacher at Auckland Grammar School when he studied by distance learning for his degree over six years and he was headmaster of Kelston Boys' High School for nine years before becoming a professional rugby coach in 1996.
He credits his university and teaching days with giving him the skills to become the nation's premier rugby coach. “I was involved in education for 25 years. I loved it and got a lot of personal satisfaction out of it,” he says.
Mr Jennings was also honoured with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award. Mr Jennings has achieved phenomenal success in his chosen field, surviving multiple economic challenges, including several global financial crises, to be one of the top market makers in the Russian merchant-banking sector.
He says his professional life and career really kicked off at Massey “My love and passion formally began during my time at Massey University and my aspiration to go and work for the New Zealand treasury also developed in that time,” he says. “The economics I began to learn during those years, together with having an open kiwi mind-set, has helped me on many occasions to look objectively at opportunities and to persevere with opportunities in countries that many other people at that time were just too scared to tread.”
Other alumni honoured at the ceremony are Sue Suckling (Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for her contribution to science, innovation and business), Dennis Oliver (Distinguished Alumni Service Award for service to the community and nation) and Luke Di Somma (Distinguished Young Alumni Award for his contribution to music).
Others recognised for their achievements in research and teaching were:
Massey University Research Medals (2011) Individual – Professor Paul Moughan, Early Career – Dr Lara Shepherd, Supervisor – Professor Michael McManus, Team – Sleep/Wake Research Centre.
Teaching Excellence Awards (2011) Sustained Commitment to Teaching Excellence Awards – Dr Mark Henrickson, Dr Nigel Parsons and Dr Gina Salapata. Excellence in Teaching First-Year Students – Professor Tony Signal. Excellence in Teaching Support – Neil Ward. The Darrylin O’Dea Award in the Field of e-Learning – Dr Brennon Wood.