The University of Waikato opened in 1964 after many years of energetic lobbying by a group of Hamilton locals, determined to have a university in their city. To begin with, facilities and students were sparse. Today, we have multiple campuses, thousands of students and over 90,000 graduates.
Bruce Judd always had a love of education and learning; he wanted to further his education after high school but his parents couldn’t afford to send him away. He settled into life, had a family and moved to Hamilton in the 1960s to work on a farm; he didn’t think he would get the opportunity to attend university.
However, that all changed in 1964 when a new university - the University of Waikato - opened and he decided to check it out. He wanted to fulfil his dream and see if it was suitable for his family to eventually enrol. Turns out, it was, and Bruce would soon become part of the first crop of graduates - just 20 of them - in 1967.
Read more about Bruce Judd
Bruce passed away in 1980 but his example to embrace education left a legacy for future generations. His daughter, Paula Ardern says he made the decision to leave his employment and enrol at the University, despite knowing the challenges that lay ahead.
“Life was pretty tough for those few years as we were a large family and dad juggled being a husband, father, student, bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and holding down two part-time jobs.”
To help make ends meet while studying, Bruce leased a portion of the University’s grounds to graze cattle. Although they were conveniently accessible for Bruce to check on during lecture breaks, the cattle still managed to escape regularly.
Early students have fond memories of founding Vice-Chancellor, Don Llewellyn, interrupting their lecture to get the students to help him catch the cattle. The small number of students and the one-building-fits-all A Block (lecture theatre, library, offices) meant that everyone knew and looked out for each other, including the cattle.
In the 1960s, socialising on campus was a milkshake at The Cowshed Cafe - an old cowshed inherited from the No. 5 Dairy Farm and converted to a cafe. Paula says, “Mrs Kemp, who ran the cafe, was famous for making the best milkshakes in town and for taking care of the students.”
“The ladies at the cafe would give Dad a box at the end of the day with all the leftovers. They knew he had lots of kids and that he was running cows on the land. They were really nice to him.”
It was a great day for Bruce’s family when he graduated. “I remember when he walked down the aisle, we were so proud of him. My young sister called out ‘there’s my dad’ and everyone laughed because it was so cute but she got embarrassed and covered her face with her arm. You can see Dad laughing in the photo and my sister covering her face.”
Bruce completed both a Bachelor and Master of Arts and became a dedicated and much-loved teacher; his example and regalia became a legacy and inspiration for future generations.
Bruce’s granddaughter, Lian Warwick, attended Church College New Zealand where Bruce taught until he passed away. “When I was a student at the school, I would pass by his photo on the wall every day, it was an inspiration to me to one day wear his graduation gown,” she says.
Lian and her three siblings attended Waikato and wore their grandfather’s regalia at graduation. “Knowing he was in the first graduating class and understanding how important education was to him meant it was a very proud moment to wear the gown that he had once worn.”
Paula says Bruce would be thrilled that so many of the family have worn his gown at graduation. The ‘family gown’, as they call it, is in perfect condition and has been worn by 12 - and counting - of Bruce’s family members.
As part of December's graduation, the University of Waikato community celebrates the capping of our 90,000th graduate. As part of the celebrations, Bruce’s family returned to the Hamilton campus along with several graduates from the early years to mark the occasion.
Remembering the old days: Mrs Kemp's milkshakes and The Cowshed
Dorothy Gaunt, née Clark, remembers the long driveway leading up to a single building on the top of the hill, at the University of Waikato in 1964 when she enrolled as one of the first students.
The building was A Block and it housed the library, lecturers’ offices and a lecture theatre. It was built on what was previously Ruakura’s No. 5 Dairy Farm; the campus still had a farming vibe with cows grazing in the paddocks and a disused cow shed. On the other side of Knighton Road was McMeekab’s Orchard.
In its first year, the University was home to approximately 150 students who enrolled in the only degree on offer, a Bachelor of Arts. The group was small by today’s standards, but Dorothy says, “we had a strong feeling of ownership and camaraderie.”
“There were very few lecturers, but most of them were on first name terms and vice versa – except for Dr John Miller from the History Department who addressed us all as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mr’.”
Read more about Dorothy Gaunt
There were no eateries on campus so the students met nearby in Mrs Kemp’s Hillcrest Café and Milk Bar. “Mrs Kemp was memorable for her milkshakes and we would go there to meet each other – oh how innocent we were.”
There were no halls of residence so the first students took part in fundraising for accommodation; they wanted to help the University to grow. “We travelled to Tokoroa, Putāruru and other Waikato towns with Bill Foreman (Waikato business owner) in his Mercedes to talk at the high schools about why students should come to Waikato.”
The foundation students also established the Waikato Student Union (WSU) and the first Student newspaper Kato.
Dorothy remembers the Queen Mother visiting the University in 1965. “She was driven up the long drive of the where while some of us waited and received a gracious nod and wave. We must have looked rather forlorn standing in such an isolated spot which was anything but the usual image of a University.”
In that same year, the cow shed that had been left on the farm and was expensive to demolish was converted to a café and Mrs Kemp and her milkshakes moved on campus. “We finally had a place to hold our first ‘hops’ and we had an office for the fledgling Waikato University Students’ association.”
In Dorothy’s final year in 1966, there were enough students on campus to form sports teams. “I was in the Women’s Hockey 11 and we had a field shared with the Teachers College to practise and play. These fields had earlier been paddocks.”
“I feel very proud to have been part of the University’s beginnings. When I returned to the University in 2008, I couldn’t believe the maturity of the trees. What a beautiful campus with magnificent buildings - and there were halls – our halls we fundraised for. The breadth and depth of subjects and degrees is impressive; but I did miss the long empty driveway.”
Dorothy is retired in Cambridge, New Zealand, is a Justice of the Peace, and is actively involved in walking groups and the community.
Early graduate impacts community for life
Former school principal and educationist Jim Pope was one of the first nineteen graduates of the University of Waikato in 1967. His grandson James Pope shared insights into his late grandfather’s educational journey and how it impacted future generations.
“Pa was very proud to be in the first group of graduates from Waikato. We still have his original degree certificate. He was a mature student and was almost 40 years old when he graduated.”
Jim, who already had a diploma of teaching and was working at Silverdale Normal School, enrolled in a degree part-time at Auckland University in the 1960s. When the University of Waikato opened just a few minutes’ walk from his workplace, the opportunity to study locally was appealing and he transferred to Waikato.
Read more about Jim Pope
Jim’s life was immersed in education; not only was he a foundation student at the University, he was also the foundation principal of Silverdale Normal School. When Silverdale Normal opened in 1964, Jim, who was known for his incisiveness and integrity, was appointed as principal. In four years, the school went from 180 to 596 pupils and from six to 23 teachers. It was during this busy period that Jim completed his degree.
His grandson James says, “My nan said that he was extremely disciplined. He would study for several hours after dinner. My father does not recall my grandfather studying so Pa must have squeezed his study in around his other work and family commitments.”
After working at Silverdale Normal School, Jim spent 13 years as principal of Hamilton East School and then moved on to become principal of Knighton Normal School. He retired in 1990 and became an active member of the Waikato Woodturners Guild.
His quest for learning and helping people did not end; he was an avid reader and was involved in Newstapes for the Blind (recording books) while also supporting English as a second language speakers.
James says, “He had a genuine love for learning, and he maintained that throughout his 89 years of life. He was born during the Great Depression and was brought up in challenging socioeconomic circumstances. Education offered him the best pathway to improve his life and opportunities. His love of education has continued to be a major focus in our family down the generations.”
Two of Jim’s children attended Waikato along with his grandson James Pope (BSocSc, MSocSc) and PGDip.
University of Waikato marks significant milestone with capping of 90,000th graduate
The past week has been one of celebration for the University of Waikato as it gears up to cap the 90,000th graduate - a significant milestone in the University’s 58-year history.
The study experiences of those in the first graduating class of 20 and those of the 90,000th graduate, Cole McOnie, couldn’t have been more different.
The early graduates all received a Bachelor of Arts – because it was once the only degree offered by the University at the time. In 1967 the graduates celebrated at an intimate ceremony at Founders Theatre in Hamilton, followed by a formal ball