Making worthwhile contributions 

Asking Dr Bev Gatenby for some of her career highlights, requires setting aside a fair amount of time. Studying while working, researching while parenting, publishing while managing; there has never been a dull moment in Bev's all-encompassing life.

Bev, who has recently stepped down after 10 years at the helm of philanthropic organisation Trust Waikato, has a rich history with the Waikato community and it is fair to acknowledge how fortunate the region has been to have someone with such dedication and resourcefulness.

Just some of her achievements as CEO of the Trust include growing the investment fund to over $340 million from $240 million and giving the community well over $80 million; establishing Strategic Partnerships which enabled projects such as Child Matters and Marae Development Programmes; and gifting a $2 million Art and Taonga collection to Waikato Museum. Bev attributes her success to teams of people and being part of worthwhile conversations.

Her connection to the University of Waikato is deeply interwoven between her personal life and career.  Originally employed in the HR division at The University of Waikato but with an English and Linguistics background, Bev was encouraged to apply for a Junior Lectureship in Communications in the Management School.

"I was working and studying at the same time. In those days Junior Lectureships were a wonderful opportunity to seek higher qualifications as well as learning the skills of teaching and research."

For 12 years, Bev lectured at the University, writing over 50 publications. During her tenure, Communications became a much more significant offering, with the development of the Communication Degree. She also played an instrumental part in developing a Women in Management course, which Waikato was one of the first Universities to offer.

Personal tragedy led to Bev leaving her full time lecturing role. The death of her second daughter Rosie, at 3 ½ months, propelled Bev to search for meaning and resulted in her writing a book for bereaved parents ‘For the Rest of our Lives.’

"There wasn't a significant resource available to New Zealand parents at that time. For me personally, I wanted to be able to read about the experiences of New Zealand parents and I had a deep desire to know what this experience meant for parents for the rest of their lives".

During time away from lecturing, Bev enrolled in a Doctorate at Waikato based on improving the lives of women and their children. Her decision to come back to The University of Waikato for her thesis, ‘Justice through service: An action inquiry’, was partly because of specific supervisors she wanted to work with as well as wanting to work alongside Waikato Anglican Social Services (now called Anglican Action), who were establishing a residential service called Cross Rose Centre.

“We examined the range of discourses available in their work and the various impacts and outcomes for women”.

Her services to the community and social services sector are unwavering and stretch back over 3 decades. As founding CEO of Social Services Waikato (now Community Waikato) she established community advisory services to build the capacity of community sector organisations. She also contributed nationally through groups such as the Community Sector Taskforce.

“The community and voluntary sector is a huge part of life in NZ and we rely particularly on social service organisations for our wellbeing in many ways.”

She took up the role as CEO of Social Services Waikato before completing her PhD, so at one stage she was CEO, finishing a PhD and raising 3 young children with husband Chris.

Whilst she doesn’t for a moment think her kids will follow in her exact footsteps, she thinks there is just something about modelling achievement and contribution to community.

“In everything that I have done there has always been a sense of wanting to make a contribution to our communities; whether that’s through education, thinking about communication or working with community sector organisation, it’s always about how we contribute to the wellbeing of communities.”

Currently enjoying a well-earned break, Bev soon plans to start giving back again – this time in the form of consulting, mentoring and coaching.