Life-long learner and distinguished Massey alumni dies

Dennis Oliver

Dennis Oliver, the recipient of Massey University’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2012, has died aged 84.

Mr Oliver embarked on a 30-year-plus academic journey with Massey in the 1980s that saw him gain a raft of qualifications in the ensuing years. While living in Fiji and working for the Young Men’s Christian Association he studied by distance before returning to New Zealand to steadily complete two papers a year.

His diligence saw him graduate with a Diploma in Training and Development (1984), a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Administration (1987), a Diploma in Social Sciences (1991), a Master of Philosophy in Social Sciences (1996) and a Master of Business Studies (2001).

Mr Oliver spoke about the importance of education in an interview in 2010 for Massey magazine. “Education changes the way you view the world,” he said. “Each course of study gives you a new ‘thinking tool’ that helps you grow personally and professionally.”

As a valued member of the University’s Hawke’s Bay alumni network, Mr Oliver encouraged active membership by facilitating regular meetings.

He enjoyed a 42-year career with the YMCA and was made a life member of the organisation in 2007. He built branches from scratch in Fiji and Samoa, reinvented the YMCA in New Plymouth and rebuilt the debt-ridden Hasting YMCA into a profitable enterprise with a staff of 35 and an annual turnover of more than $1 million.

He took action to help the unemployed and to prevent suicide, built community development programmes in Pacific nations and wrote four books: Rural Youth, My Friends the Shoeshine Boys, Trickling Up, and Training the Unemployed.

He was bestowed the paramount matia chief title Tagaloafaatautele as a reward for his service to the people of Foaluga Salega Savaii.

His funeral was held on Monday in Hastings.

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