A lasting legacy: generosity of alumni will help students for years to come

Monday 9 October 2023

Two Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University alumni have gifted a total of $2.3 million to the Massey University Foundation, which will support students in their study journey through scholarships.

Brian Wickham believed in the value of young people, no matter their family circumstances.

Last updated: Monday 9 October 2023

The first generous gift was from alumni Brian Wickham, who established the Violet Wickham Memorial Bursary in 2016 in honour of his late mother to assist agriculture students experiencing financial hardship.

Mr Wickham’s mother, Violet Wickham (nee Zurcher) (1916 -1988), was one of five children and grew up in Longburn, Manawatū on a dairy farm with her Swiss parents. She married Frank Wickham in 1939 and moved to Taranaki where they raised nine children on a dairy farm in Ratapiko. Mrs Wickham regretted leaving school at the age of 15 and encouraged her children to make the most of educational opportunities. She was deeply committed to helping those less fortunate than herself.

Like his mother, Mr Wickham believed in the value of education and the potential of young people no matter their family circumstances. Since establishing the scholarship in 2016, he and his wife Alison had donated $200,000 and on 4 August this year, they gifted a further $500,000. This additional gift will mean the scholarship, which goes to talented agricultural students, will be able to support many more students each year.

Mr Wickham completed an Agricultural Science Degree at Massey University in 1966 and a Masters of Agricultural Science in 1972. He went on to complete a PhD in animal breeding and genetics at Cornell University in 1975. He has used his knowledge and skills to contribute to the field of farm animal breeding in New Zealand, Ireland and worldwide. Mr Wickham was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Kings Birthday Honours.

In August, shortly before he passed away after a long battle with cancer, Mr Wickham told Massey they wanted to donate to the bursary directly, rather than through a Will because it was more personal.

“We feel as though we should be doing our giving while we’re alive, that’s when we have control over it.”

He had contact with a number of bursary recipients, who were very grateful for the financial support.

“It’s really been worth it. I love seeing them getting on and achieving their goals in life. If I had not been able to study for financial reasons, my life would have been very different.”

He said he would love to see more of his contemporaries give back.

“I think there’s an issue with the transfer of wealth from our generation to the next generation or two. Our generation is perhaps overdoing the accumulation part, and under doing it when it comes to repaying in recognition of the benefits we had.”

His son Hadley says his dad was deeply committed to fostering the next generation of scientists.

“It gave him much satisfaction to know that his hard work could also benefit others. Charlotte and I have both benefited from scholarships in the course of our educations, and know the positive impact they can have. It's comforting to know that dad's name will live long, helping others as he wanted.”

Contributions can be made to the Violet Wickham bursary here.

The other significant individual gift came from alumna Berys Clark who studied extramurally, completing a Bachelor of Business Studies in 1994. She died in February of 2022, bequeathing approximately $1.8 million to the Foundation. This gift has been added to a previous gift of $500,000 made by Mrs Clark in 2002 in the name of her late husband Lovell and herself, to support postgraduate study.

Mr Clark was never able to undertake tertiary study himself but wanted to make it possible for others to enjoy what he missed out on. Mr Clark’s nephew John Donnelley says the couple were down to earth, generous and community minded.

“They were always oriented towards the land and their devotion to that kind of life was brilliant.

“Berys loved to travel around the world but Lovell would stay home and he used to say to me, ‘imagine spending all that money on travel for torture!’. The land was his life. Lovell always kept immaculate records and when he was away in the Pacific during World War II he kept a detailed diary, wrote to his mum every day and sent money home. He was a very careful and generous person.

“As a family we are very proud of them and their generosity which will give people an opportunity to get ahead,” he says.

The Lovell and Berys Clark Scholarships support postgraduate students studying science, biotechnology, agriculture, humanities, arts or business and range between $5000 to $15,000 in value.

The Foundation’s Director Development Mitch Murdoch says this support will help students for generations to come.

“Postgraduate students often don’t qualify for government loans and with the cost of living so high, these scholarships can make the difference between completing a qualification and failing to finish the course. We are humbled and very grateful to Berys and Lovell for this truly transformational gift which will mean so much to so many.”