The UK’s 2016 New Zealander of the year Mark Wilson is one of three University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni being celebrated tomorrow night. Mr Wilson will be joined at this year’s awards by novelist and historian Dr Deborah Challinor and Vice-Chancellor and President of the National University of Samoa Professor Asofou So’o.
After graduating from Waikato University with a Bachelor of Management Studies, Mr Wilson worked in insurance which took him to Asia for 14 years, and where he began to earn a reputation as a turn-around specialist, bringing companies in strife back into the black.
Mr Wilson joined a struggling Aviva as Group Chief Executive Officer in the UK at the start of 2013. The company is now the largest insurer in the UK and a UK Top 30 Company, operating in 16 countries with 34 million customers and more than £400 billion of assets.
Last year he was named in the Sunday Times 2016 list of Britain’s most influential people.
Readers of historical fiction will be familiar with the work of Dr Deborah Challinor, whose work includes the Convict Girl and Smuggler’s Wife series. Her novels have been translated into many languages and sell all over the world, and all 15 of them have appeared in the top five New Zealand fiction bestseller list, seven of them reaching number one.
The Waikato-based author completed her PhD in history at Waikato University, studying New Zealand soldiers and the Vietnam War, and which resulted in the non-fiction book Grey Ghosts.
Professor Asofou So’o graduated from the University of Waikato in 1982 with a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Arts and returned to Waikato in the late 1980s to study for a Master of Arts, graduating in 1989. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University in 1996.
He held several academic and leadership positions in Samoa before being appointed Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Samoa (NSU) in 2009.
Professor So’o has been instrumental in guiding NSU to national, regional and international recognition as a vibrant and innovative centre of excellence for research in Samoan studies and quality teaching and training across all disciplines.
He has also published widely on matters of democracy and governance in Samoa and the Pacific Islands, including public sector reform, the impact of globalisation, sustainable development, and conflict in the Pacific.
The Distinguished Alumni awardees will be honoured at a dinner on the Hamilton campus on Friday 31 March.