Distinguished Alumni Awards

The University of Waikato celebrates and honours graduates who have made outstanding contributions to their professions or communities by presenting them with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

All graduates with a degree or diploma are eligible for nomination. Nominations from students, alumni, current and former staff of the University of Waikato and members of the community are welcome.

If you would like to nominate someone for this award, please complete and submit the Distinguished Alumni Awards nomination form.

For more information, please contact the Secretary to the Honours Committee, Tracy Pilet
Phone: 07 838 4054

2019 awardees

Brian Sweeney

International business strategist and communications specialist

Bachelor of Arts 1980

Brian and Jane Vesty founded PR agency SweeneyVesty in Wellington in 1987. Brian is chairman of the company that has its headquarters in New York, serving clients in Europe, USA and Asia-Pacific.

He is a co-founder of the website NZEDGE.COM, dedicated to strengthening the identity of New Zealanders around the world by celebrating their stories and successes, and is co-founder of 7 x 7, an ideas and networking forum to spark innovative global change from within New Zealand.

His expertise in international branding, issues and crisis management means he is in high demand. He has been a member of the influential TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) global conference in California since 1993. Outside his business, he is a strong supporter and funder of the arts.

At the University of Waikato Brian has been a member of the Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Advisory Board, and has contributed strongly to the Sir Edmund Hillary Centennial Steering Committee.

Vittoria Shortt


Bachelor of Management Studies 1994

Vittoria began her career with the audit team at Deloitte before moving into corporate finance. At Carter Holt Harvey she worked on mergers and acquisitions and discovered she had a talent for strategy, for focussing on big issues, and she developed her ability to communicate clearly and make decisions.

Following a move to Australia, Vittoria moved into banking. At the Commonwealth Bank of Australia she worked in a number of senior executive positions and by 2015 she was Group Executive Marketing and Strategy.

She returned to New Zealand in 2018 to become CEO of ASB.

During her career, Vittoria has worked to support and mentor women working in the financial and marketing sectors, and to identify talent and create development opportunities for future women leaders.

Dr Andrew Smith

CEO Prolife Foods

Bachelor of Science 1987

Master of Science (First Class Honours) 1989

Andrew was the University of Waikato’s first Rhodes Scholar, which saw him going to Oxford University to complete a PhD in Physics.

He spent 16 years working in consumer and grocery markets, in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, for companies including Fonterra, Unilever, and Procter and Gamble. In February 2009 he was appointed CEO of Hamilton-based Prolife Foods.

The company has expanded into Australia, Asia, the USA and Middle East and has opened a factory in Melbourne to serve the ever-growing Australasian customer base. Prolife now has 1400 staff with revenue in excess of $275 million.

Andrew was a founding sponsor of the Community & Enterprise Leadership Foundation (CELF), a charitable trust established by Prolife founder Bernie Crosby with David Irving and the University of Waikato to develop future Waikato leaders. CELF and the University of Waikato created the Elevate Leadership Programme with a sponsorship model that offers Waikato businesses the opportunity to support community leaders in not-for-profit organisations to develop their leadership skills alongside corporate participants.

Wayne Smith CNZM

All Blacks rugby player and coach

Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons) 1979

Wayne was selected for the All Blacks in 1980 and played 35 games for the national side over five years, then moved into management and coaching, in what appeared to be a seamless shift.

Called “the professor” by those who had worked with him and played under him, Wayne had a reputation as a skilled tactician, with an outstanding command of defence and counter attack.

He was co-coach with Graham Henry when the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and then with Steve Hansen for its successful defence in 2015.

Wayne also coached the Chiefs to their first Super Rugby title in 2012, the same year he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

2018 Awardees

The Honourable Dame Annette King

Former Member of Parliament

Bachelor of Arts 1981
Read More

Dr Sarah Calvert

Registered Clinical Psychologist

Bachelor of Social Sciences 1974, Master of Social Sciences 1975, Doctor of Philosophy, 1982
Read More

Jan Zijderveld

CEO, Avon Products

Bachelor of Management Studies 1986
Read More

Miriam Dean CNZM Q.C.


Bachelor of Social Sciences 1977
Read More

Professor Tom Higham

Professor of Archaeological Science, Deputy Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit

Doctor of Philosophy 1993
Read More

Dr Shane Legg

Co-founder and Chief Scientist Google DeepMind

Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences (Second Class Honours, First Division) 1996
Read More

2017 Awardees

Mark Wilson

CEO, Aviva

Bachelor of Management Studies, 1989
Read More

Professor Fui Le'apai Tu'ua 'Īlaoa Asofou So’o

Vice-Chancellor and President of the National University of Samoa

Bachelor of Education, 1981; Bachelor of Arts, 1982; Master of Arts, 1988
Read More

Deborah Challinor

Historian, writer

Bachelor of Arts, 1981; Master of Arts (Honours), 1994; Doctor of Philosophy, 1999
Read More

2016 Awardees

No award ceremony was held this year

2015 Awardees

Peter Churchouse

Financial analyst, publisher and investor

Bachelor of Arts, 1970; Master of Social Sciences, 1971
Read More

Hinewehi Mohi MNZM

Managing Director, Raukatauri Productions Ltd, singer and songwriter, co-founder and trustee of the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre

Bachelor of Arts, 1985
Read More

Rob Waddell ONZM

Chef de Mission, New Zealand Olympic Committee

Bachelor of Management Studies (Honours), 1998
Read More

2014 Awardees

Jamie Fitzgerald

Management consultant, adventurer and motivational speaker

Bachelor of Communication Studies, 2005
Read More

Dr Arthur Grimes


Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1979
Read More

Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane QSO

Author; Inaugural Director, Pacific Island Education Resource Centre

Bachelor of Arts, 1974 and Master of Arts, 1976
Read More

Parekawhia McLean

CEO, Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Inc

Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1986 and Master of Social Sciences, 1992
Read More

2013 Awardees

Professor Marston Conder

Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, University of Auckland

Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1976 and Master of Social Sciences, 1978
Read More

Judge Stephanie Milroy

Maori Land Court Judge and former Deputy Chair, Waitangi Tribunal

Master of Laws, 1997
Read More

Edmund Wee

Managing and Creative Director, Epigram (Design) and Publisher and CEO, Epigram Books

Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1974 and Master of Social Sciences, 1976
Read More

2012 Awardees

Warren Gatland OBE

Head Coach, Welsh Rugby Union

Diploma of Teaching, 1986
Read More

Karen Morrison-Hume

Anglican Missioner, Anglican Action

Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1997
Read More

Murray Sherwin CNZM

Chairman, New Zealand Productivity Commission

Bachelor of Social Sciences, 1974 and Master of Social Sciences, 1976
Read More

2011 Awardees

Paul Bowker

Owner, Hotel on Devonport, H & H Construction Ltd

Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies, 2007 and Master of Business Administration, 2008
Read More

John Erkkila

Founder and Executive Director, New Zealand Home Loans

Bachelor of Sciences, 1985
Read More

Hon Hekia Parata MP

Minister of Education

Bachelor of Arts, 1980 and Master of Arts, 1984
Read More

Lt Col Dr Christopher Pugsley ONZ, FRHistS

Military historian and Former Senior Lecturer War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Doctor of Philosophy, 1992
Read More

2010 Awardees

Sam Knowles

Kiwibank Founding Chief Executive

Bachelor of Sciences, 1975
Read More

Dr Craig Nevill-Manning

Director, New York Engineering, Google

Doctor of Philosophy, 1996
Read More

Lt Col Tenby Powell

Leading Businessman, Director and Chairman

Bachelor of Sciences, 1987
Read More

2009 Awardees

Dr Judy McGregor CNZM

Head of School/Associate Dean, School of Social Sciences, AUT

Bachelor of Arts, 1970
Read More

Alyn Ware

Peace Activist

Master of Education, 1989
Read More

Annabelle White

Celebrity Chef and Cookbook Author

Master of Arts, 1982
Read More

2008 Awardees

HE Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae GNZM QSO

Governor General and former NZ Defence Force chief

Master of Arts, 1996
Read More

Dr David Derek Sikua

Former Prime Minister, Solomon Islands

Doctor of Philosophy, 2003
Read More

Sir Peter Vela ONZM

Business founder and owner

Master of Social Sciences, 1973
Read More

2007 Awardees

Theresa Gattung CNZM

Leading New Zealand business personality Former Telecom CEO

Bachelor of Management Studies, 1984
Read More

Clare McTamney

Manager - Remuneration and Benefits, ANZ

Bachelor of Management Studies (Hons) and Bachelor of Laws, 1999
Read More

Deryck Shaw MNZM

Director, APR Consultants Ltd

Bachelor of Science, 1978
Read More