Media Advisory August 15


Former world squash champion Dame Susan Devoy joins Dr Toni Bruce, an expert on gender and sport, and Waikato University’s Dr Holly Thorpe in the third of the annual Winter Lecture Series this week. Based around all facets of sport - including the good, bad, and rugby – the Winter Lecture Series aims to debate the role sport plays in the life of the community, the issues facing professional sport and the role business can play to keep Waikato a key sporting destination. During this week’s lecture, titled Women in Sport, the panelists will discuss women’s participation in sport and the challenges and pressures of elite competition in both established sports and newer arrivals on the scene. The University of Waikato Winter Lecture Series, titled This Sporting Life, is a series of free public lectures on all things sporting. All lectures run Wednesday evenings throughout August from 6pm to 7pm, at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts with parking available in Gate 2B off Knighton Rd, Hamilton. All sessions are open to the public.


The successful career of Acting Energy and Resources Minister Hekia Parata (Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tahu), is being acknowledged by the University of Waikato which is presenting her with a Distinguished Alumni Award this week. Ms Parata who’s also Minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister for Ethnic Affairs, and Associate Minister for ACC and for the Community and Voluntary Sector, completed her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees (in Māori) at Waikato in the 1980s. Before entering parliament in 2008, Ms Parata spent 30 years in Wellington working in Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Prime Minister’s Advisory Group, Ministry for the Environment, the New Zealand Housing Corporation, Te Puni Kokiri and State Services Commission. With her husband, Sir Wira Gardiner, she ran a private consultancy business advising clients in New Zealand and around the world on public policy. Ms Parata has also held a number of governance positions on boards and trusts in the private, public and iwi sectors, been a Senior Executive Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and at Templeton College, Oxford and represented New Zealand at many international forums, including the World Bank, United Nations and South Pacific Forum.


Military historian and one of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients, Dr Chris Pugsley will give a free public lecture the day before accepting his award. Lt Col (retd) Chris Pugsley was born in Cardiff, Wales and migrated to Greymouth, New Zealand with his parents in 1952. He graduated from the University of Waikato with a PhD in History in 1992. A former infantry officer, Dr Pugsley became interested in writing in 1984 when he authored a book and worked on a television documentary about New Zealand's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign. In 1988, after 22 years in the New Zealand Army, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel to become a freelance military writer. His first book, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, has been reprinted four times and was shortlisted for the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award in 1984. His most recent book on this subject is The Anzac Experience: New Zealand, Australia and Empire in the First World War. Dr Pugsley is currently a senior lecturer in war studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK and will hold his lecture at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts on August 18, starting at 6pm. Reservations are essential and are requested by 15 August to or phone 07 838 4501.


University of Waikato student Charlotte Willson spent her semester break in Nepal, teaching English (and Frisbee) to monks in the Mahayana Monastery in the Kathmandu Valley and trekking to base camps in the Himalayas. “I was teaching 120 young monks, the oldest was only 18. I also taught them how to throw a frisbee. They’d never seen one before so the surprise and wonder on their faces was pretty cool to see. It was also lovely to see their faces light up when they made progress with their English.” Charlotte went to Nepal through VIN – Volunteer Initiative Nepal - and alongside teaching took the chance to trek, with a guide, to two base camps, Machapuchre and Annapurna, climbing higher than the tip of Mt Cook. She says she chose to visit Nepal because she’s a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar and Sir Ed had strong links with Nepal. Hillary scholars are selected because of their sound academic records and their excellence in a sport or performing art. Charlotte Willson is a golfer studying for a conjoint teaching and sport and leisure degree.


The man behind New Zealand Home Loans and a key driver in the Waikato Hospice fundraising campaign will receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Waikato this week. John Erkkila graduated from Waikato with a science degree but went straight into business and stayed there. He joined Murray Fergusson in 1996 to open the first NZ Home Loans franchise. There are now 58 franchises from Whangarei to Invercargill; the business employs more than 200 staff and has $3.8 billion of loans and $22 million of insurance premiums under management. In 2006, New Zealand Home Loans sold a 51 percent share to Kiwibank, but Erkkila remained as CEO until April this year and is now an Executive Director. With his wife Christine, Mr Erkkila runs Team Gamesail, which began operating in 2005 when the business launched the first of its two ocean-going luxury catamarans for people to voyage around the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Islands. In Hamilton, Mr Erkkila has been a major supporter of the new Waikato Hospice. He chaired the fundraising campaign, which brought in $8 million, and is chairman of the Hospice Waikato Foundation.


University of Waikato researcher Dr Nathalie Philippe is collaborating with this year's Distinguished Alumni Award recipient and military historian Dr Chris Pugsley on a new book looking at the experiences of New Zealand soldiers in France during World War I. "The Great Adventure Ends: New Zealand and France During World War I" is an edited collection of contributions from specialists and the descendants of WWI veterans from New Zealand, the UK, France and Germany. "This is the forgotten part of World War I, yet more New Zealanders died on the Western Front than in Gallipoli," says Dr Philippe who has a long-standing interest in the topic. The collaboration began in 2008 at a colloquium organised by Dr Philippe in Le Quesnes, the only French city to be liberated by New Zealand troops, where Dr Pugsley was the keynote speaker. The book is due to be published early next year in New Zealand and in France, ahead of the WWI centenary in 2014. 


Composer Mike Williams is using a bloody battle from the Second World War as the setting for an opera called Juniper Passion, due for release later this year. Williams, who’s a senior lecturer in music at the University of Waikato visited the region and also talked to war historian and Waikato alumnus Dr Chris Pugsley (a 2011 Distinguished Alumni) to gather facts and stories about the battle of Montecassino in Italy. Prior to the full opera’s release, Williams has recorded a prologue of the opera which sets the scene in the Benedictine Abbey that sits on top of the mountain overlooking the town of Cassino (pre-bombing) and the text is a Latin version of the rules of St Benedict. John Davies (formerly of Waikato, now at Unitech) has written the libretto for the full opera.


Children’s book author Jean Bennett will explore the genre of writing for children through a practical course beginning later this month in Tauranga. Offered through the University of Waikato’s Centre for Continuing Education, the course will cover a wide range of children’s literature, both fiction and non-fiction. Participants will learn to write stories for their own pleasure, for family, or for publication, examine different writing styles, and gain an understanding of plot structure, setting, characterisation and dialogue, along with the importance of editing. Jean Bennett, from Tauranga, has published a wide range of children’s books, as well as short stories and poetry. In 2003 she was awarded the Storylines/Betty Gilderdale Award for services to children’s literature. The course will be held over four consecutive Saturdays beginning August 27 at the Bay Of Plenty Polytechnic Windermere Campus, room A2, and costs $280. For more information visit


Waikato Pathways College holds a preliminary course acknowledging Tikanga Māori for early childhood teachers on August 20. The aim of the course is to give insight into sound and accompanying waiata with a view to encouraging more use of traditional sounds within early childhood programmes. Participants will develop a range of tasks for young children that build on the kaupapa and use of natural materials for creating and organising sound with children. The course costs $60 and begins at 9am on Saturday August 20 at the Waikato Pathways College. Enrolment information at

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