University of Waikato award for Pacific education advocate

10 September 2014

Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane

Strengthening Pacific bonds:  Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane with University of Waikato Chancellor Jim Bolger and wife Joan when a high level delegation from the University of Waikato visited Samoa in 2013.

One of the University of Waikato’s first Pacific graduates, Le Mamea Taulapapa Sefulu Ioane, has received a Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of his longstanding contributions to education in Samoa and New Zealand.

Teaching beginnings

Le Mamea, as he is known, hails from the Samoan village of Vaimoso, near Apia. He was a foundation student at Samoa College in Apia, and moved to New Zealand to attend Greymouth High School before studying at Ardmore Teachers’ College in Auckland.

Before enrolling at the University of Waikato in 1971, Le Mamea taught biology and mathematics at Hamilton’s Melville High School. He graduated from Waikato in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities. Two years later he graduated again with a Master of Arts, with first class honours in English Literature.

Helping Pacific communities in New Zealand

In 1976 Le Mamea became the inaugural director of the Pacific Island Education Resource Centre, which was established to provide English language education, skill development and advice for recent migrants in preparation for work in New Zealand.

The organisation, since renamed the Pasifika Education Trust, remains in operation today.

In 1980 he received a Fulbright Award to travel to visit US research centres involved in educating non-English speaking people, and in 1987 he was named a Fellow of the Royal Society.

He was deputy chairman of the Council for Māori and South Pacific Arts of the QEII Arts Council, chairman of the New Zealand Festival of South Pacific Arts and Culture from 1984-1988 and an Auckland City Councillor for three years.

Back in Samoa

Le Mamea’s community contributions continued well after his return home to Samoa.

He is currently President of the Samoa RSA and a member of the Samoa Senior Citizen Society. In 2005, he publicly called for the Samoan government to reinstitute the commemoration of ANZAC Day in recognition of the Samoans who fought under the New Zealand flag in WWI. He received a Queen’s Service Order for Public Service in 1990.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford says the university is proud to recognise someone of Le Mamea’s stature with a Distinguished Alumni Award. “Le Mamea is highly-regarded in both New Zealand and Pacific communities, for not just his significant contributions to both, but also for his humility and humble nature.”

Says Le Mamea: “I am greatly honoured to receive this Distinguished Alumni Award from Waikato University. Thank you very much to the Rt Hon Jim Bolger, Professor Roy Crawford, staff and the University of Waikato for helping me to learn the English and Māori languages. These blessings will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

Pacific Alumni and Friends event 

The day after Le Mamea received his Distinguished Alumni Award, Pacific Alumni and Friends gathered at an event on campus to celebrate Le Mamea’s momentous achievements and his contributions to the Pacific communities in New Zealand and Samoa. Read more about the event here and view the photo gallery here.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The University of Waikato’s Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2014 were presented on September 19 at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

This year, as the University marks its 50th anniversary, four alumni were recognised with Distinguished Alumni Awards. The other recipients are adventurer, management consultant and motivational speaker Jamie Fitzgerald; economist Dr Arthur Grimes; and CEO of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Parekawhia McLean.

All recipients receive a limited edition cast-glass figure created exclusively by award winning local artist Di Tocker.

The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate and honour University of Waikato alumni who have made outstanding contributions in their careers and communities, taking into account excellence in the professional, cultural, creative and voluntary sectors.