Celebrated novelist Catherine Chidgey recognised with Vice-Chancellor's Medal

Celebrated New Zealand novelist and University of Waikato Senior Lecturer Catherine Chidgey has been awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Medal for Staff Excellence.

14 Dec 2023

Her award is recognising her record of publication in creative writing, the international recognition of her work, and her promotion of creative writing at the University of Waikato through both her teaching and her establishment and management of the Sargeson Prize.

Senior Lecturer Catherine Chidgey received the Vice-Chancellor's Medal at the University's Staff Awards.

She was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Medal at the University’s staff awards on 13 December.

Chidgey made literary history in June this year, dominating New Zealand’s bestseller list with her novels "Pet" at number one and "The Axeman’s Carnival" at number two featuring simultaneously, the only time a New Zealand author has achieved such acclaim.

Chidgey also won the $64,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction this year for The Axeman’s Carnival. She is the only writer to have won the prize twice, having also received it in 2017 for The Wish Child, a book that remained on New Zealand’s bestseller list for over a year after its publication.

Described as ‘one of New Zealand’s greatest living writers’ by RNZ’s Morning Report, Catherine’s books cross many subgenres from literary fiction, historical fiction, the Holocaust novel, the psychological thriller, and her colleagues say she is never content to rest on her laurels.

Catherine’s initiative in establishing the Sargeson Prize at the University, the country’s most prestigious short story award, has also helped foster a new generation of writers and built recognition of the excellence of the English programme at Waikato. Growing in popularity each year, 2023 saw almost 1,100 submissions.

“This work is an outstanding example of commitment by an individual member of staff to the promotion of the University’s national and international reputation, as well as its efforts to increase its student numbers,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley.

Alongside her novels, Catherine has also published two picture books and translated many children’s books from German for award-winning publisher Gecko Press. Her translation of Wolf Erlbruch’s Duck, Death and the Tulip was recently named one of the 100 greatest children’s books of all time by the BBC.

Catherine’s contribution to creative arts and her research has also been well recognised by Creative NZ, which has funded four of her novels. In 2022 she received a Creative NZ Arts Grant to travel to the United Kingdom to research a novel, and this year she received funding to attend the Cheltenham Literature Festival and undertake publicity events in London.

“Catherine is both a nationally and internationally acclaimed author, and a staff member committed to the advancement of the University of Waikato” says Professor Quigley.

The University’s awards also recognised a number of other staff who have made significant contributions over the last year:

Teaching Excellence Awards

  • Early Career: Dr Melody May Wilkinson, Te Kura Toi School of Arts
  • Dr Kim Hébert-Losier, Te Huataki Waiora School of Health

Research Excellence Awards

Research Excellence (individual) Awards

Staff Excellence Awards

  • Individual: Scott Douglas, Property Services
  • Team: The Events Team



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