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University of Waikato celebrates Distinguished Alumni

A politician, a war historian and two businessmen are University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni for 2011. The Honourable Hekia Parata, Dr Chris Pugsley, Paul Bowker and John Erkkila were presented with their awards at a dinner on August 19.

More than 200 guests attended the black-tie dinner at the University’s Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts which was hosted by the University’s Chancellor and former Prime Minister Jim Bolger and the Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford.

On the evening guests were treated to performances from two of the University's young musical stars, cellist Santiago Canon Valencia and singer Chase Douglas, both award-winning Hillary Scholars.   

Guests were also treated to a multi-media preview of the Prelude to The Juniper Passion, a new opera by Waikato composer Mike Williams centred around the Battle of Monte Cassino.  The full opera will be formally released in November through Atoll Records. 

Click here to read more.

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Paul Bowker

Owner, Hotel on Devonport and Director, H & H Construction Ltd

The contribution that Tauranga businessman Paul Bowker has made to his adopted city has been acknowledged by the University of Waikato.

Mr Bowker and his family came to New Zealand from South Africa and settled in Tauranga in 1996. He shot to local fame when he proposed redevelopment of the old Tauranga Club and successfully transformed the building into a 16-level apartment and hotel complex. Devonport Towers changed the profile of the inner city and led the way for future development in downtown Tauranga.

Identifying a need to increase his management skills, Mr Bowker completed an MBA at the University of Waikato in Tauranga. He has since gone on to become active in the business community and strategic development of the city and invited by the Tauranga City Council to be a member of the City Centre Strategy Steering Committee. That strategy, two years in development, is now being put in place, setting a blueprint for Tauranga’s future.

Mr Bowker has been Vice-President of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce since 2004, is a Board Member of Tourism Bay of Plenty and the ministerial appointment on the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic Council.

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John Erkkila

Founder and Executive Director, New Zealand Home Loans

Businessman and Hospice Waikato supporter John Erkkila has been presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

Mr Erkkila left University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science but went straight into business, first managing a hotel, then setting up his own insurance brokerage.

In 1996 he joined forces with Murray Fergusson to establish New Zealand Home Loans. The first franchise opened in Wellington and the business has grown steadily so that now there are 58 franchises from Whangarei to Invercargill employing more than 200 staff. The business has $3.8 billion of loans and $22 million of insurance premiums under management.

In 2006, New Zealand Home Loans sold a 51% share to Kiwibank, but Mr Erkkila remained as CEO until April this year and is now an executive director.

With his wife Christine, he also owns Team Gamesail, which uses yachts from his boat building facility in Tamahere, and he is currently developing a range of unique game fishing boats.

Mr Erkkila was one of the key drivers behind the new Hospice Waikato facility in Hillcrest. He chaired the fundraising campaign, which brought in $8 million, and is the chairman of the Hospice Waikato Foundation.

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Hon Hekia Parata, MP

Cabinet Minister

The Honourable Hekia Parata has been presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

Ms Parata was elected to Parliament in 2008 after a long and successful career in the public sector. She is the Acting Minister for Energy and Resources, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, the Minister for Ethnic Affairs, and the Associate Minister for ACC and for the Community and Voluntary Sector. While a student at Waikato she became the first Maori woman to be elected student president and she graduated with a BA, followed by an MA (in Maori).

Ms Parata is of Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu descent and comes from a family with leadership in its blood.

"I entered Parliament proud to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors in the pursuit of quality citizenship for all. They provide a model that I am glad to emulate: unambiguously Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu; unequivocally a New Zealander.''

Ms Parata has held several governance positions on boards and trusts in the private, public and iwi sectors and been a Senior Executive Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and at Templeton College, Oxford. She has also represented New Zealand at many international forums, including the World Bank, United Nations and South Pacific Forum.

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Lt Col (retd) Dr Christopher Pugsley, FRHistS

Senior Lecturer War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

New Zealand’s foremost military historian has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato.

Dr Chris Pugsley earned his PhD at Waikato in 1992. It was published as ‘On the Fringe of Hell: New Zealanders and Military Discipline in the First World War’, and he’s since gone on to write 15 military books.

Dr Pugsley is a senior lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England where he lectures on the evolution of warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Alongside his research and writing, Dr Pugsley has worked with major institutions on travelling and permanent exhibitions, film research and cataloguing and as a consultant to National Archives New Zealand on the War Art Collection and the New Zealand Film Archive.

He says he’s honoured to receive a Waikato University alumni award. “I am humbled and feel something of a fraud for being recognised for pursuing my hobby. As I tell friends and colleagues, ‘The Queen pays me to indulge’; not many people are so fortunate.”

Dr Pugsley also spoke at a Waikato alumni and friends function on August 18 that attracted more than 120 people.

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Thank you to our sponsors

We appreciate your support of the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner.

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From the Vice Chancellor

Professor Roy Crawford

Increasingly universities are being judged on the achievements of their graduates and therefore it gives me pleasure to once again acknowledge some of the University of Waikato's world-class alumni.

Four alumni were honoured at our annual awards ceremony on Friday 19 August: businessmen Paul Bowker and John Erkkila, Cabinet Minister Hekia Parata and military historian Dr Christopher Pugsley.

These four recipients of the 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award are all now highly respected for their professional achievements built from their educational experience acquired here.  The alumni we have acknowledged are diverse, but all embody this University's approach to leadership and excellence.

Events

Gallagher Great Race, Sunday 11 September, Waikato River. 

Excellence in Practice Series -
Centre for Corporate and
Executive Education
continuing from 9 September.

Walls of Troy, a new opera by David Griffiths, runs 9-13 September.

Harkness Henry Lecture12 September - Chief Justice Rt Hon Dame Sian Elias will deliver a lecture to mark the 20th anniversary of the series.

Frank Sargeson Memorial Lecture15 September - New Zealand Poet Laureate, Ian Wedde.

Inaugural Professorial Lectures:

Prof Kay Weaver
20 September

Prof Brad Morse
18 October

Prof Moira Steyn-Ross
15 November

Tauranga Alumni event 6 October, 6pm, Tauranga Art Gallery with Prof Bob Evans - save the date.

What’s on at the
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

What’s on at the
Calder & Lawson Gallery,

Alumni links

Alumni Representatives are available to you as a first point of contact wherever you are in the world.  Let us know if you would like to set up an alumni group in your area.