‘Keel’ of university retires after 44 years


Professor Anderson at his leaving function in Palmerston North.

Bette Flagler, Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, Professor Anderson
and Robyn Anderson

A young Robert Anderson chaperoning Queen Elizabeth II
on her visit to the University in 1970.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and College of Sciences Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Anderson leaves behind a nearly 50-year legacy with Massey University – one that began in 1967, when he won a Victorian Government scholarship to Massey to complete a Bachelor of Agricultural Science.

He first became involved in the governance of the university as students' association president in 1969 and was the first student member of the University Council. One of his duties was chaperoning Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to the university in 1970.

Before graduating with a Master of Agricultural Science in 1975 he had been a junior lecturer. A string of appointments followed, from becoming the youngest professor of the university at 32 years old, then Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, head (Pro Vice-Chancellor) of the College of Sciences and, finally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

He has also accumulated numerous awards. He received the Centennial Medal from the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture for “Outstanding Contributions to the Fields of Biometrics and Animal Breeding and Services to Agricultural Education”, he was elected a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural Science, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, he was awarded the 2000 Thomson Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand for “Outstanding and Inspirational Leadership in the Management of Science”, and, in 2007, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to science, education and cricket.

For Professor Anderson, the highlights from his time at Massey are the achievements of others.

“Out of the last 10 Rutherford medals, seven have been won by a Massey scientist, past or current,” he says. “The college has also produced two vice-chancellors, one deputy vice-chancellor, one head of a crown research institute, one co-director of a CoRE [Centre of Research Excellence]. We’ve managed to support so many people who have excelled both in their leadership in science but also people who have excelled in management and the organisation of science.”

Another highlight is forming the College of Sciences as it is today. “That was a huge challenge but it really was an exciting time. It was great to be part of what was going to be a significant development for such a sizable component of the university. The college was formed on the founding principles of being research-led and encouraging large, multidisciplinary teams – something that has now carried over into cross-organisational groups like the Hopkirk Institute and FoodHQ.”

Institute of Food Science and Technology Professor Richard Archer described Professor Anderson at his farewell as the “keel” of the university – a sentiment echoed by Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey.

“He has shaped this university," Mr Maharey said. "Not just as a student but as a leader at every level of the university, finishing as Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Everything we have done in the past 44 years has been touched by Robert. We absolutely have someone here who has defined our lives. What he wants is the best for the institution and the best for you.”

Professor Anderson retires on April 3 after “44 years and two days”. Professor Ray Geor will replace him as the new College of Sciences Pro Vice-Chancellor. Professor Ted Zorn is the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

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