One of the University of Waikato’s most successful alumni is now proud to be giving back to his alma mater. Distinguished alumnus Dr Andrew Smith is funding an annual medal in excellence and kicking off a Distinguished Alumni scholarship, both to recognise outstanding student achievements.
From next year, the Dr Andrew Smith Medal for Academic Excellence will be awarded annually to the most academically outstanding student completing an undergraduate degree in any discipline across the University. The University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni Scholarship will provide financial support to outstanding students in their final year of study in a conjoint degree, or degree with a double major, spanning management and the sciences. Students can apply for the scholarship from 2022.
Andrew graduated with Bachelor and Masters of Science degrees, majoring in physics, with first class honours in 1989. That same year he became the University’s first Rhodes Scholar, which saw him attend Oxford University to complete his doctorate.
He then spent 16 years working in consumer and grocery markets in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, for companies including Fonterra, Unilever, and Procter and Gamble. In February 2009 he was appointed CEO at Prolife Foods, known for brands such as Mother Earth, Alison’s Pantry and Donovans Chocolates.
In 2019 he received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University in recognition of his international business success.
He says he is proud to be supporting students at his old university. “The University, and the region, are where I’m closest to and have had a good portion of my career based at Prolife Foods. I grew up in Hamilton, attending Knighton Normal, Peachgrove Intermediate and Hillcrest High, and I thoroughly enjoyed being a student at Waikato.”
As a student, Andrew did exceptionally well. He achieved straight As across all of his papers, many of them A++. He was also captain of Waikato’s University Challenge team, leading them to the final against Auckland University.
Andrew says the decision to support students in double degree or double major programmes, through the Distinguished Alumni Scholarship, is to encourage students to combine different fields of knowledge.
“Supporting high-achieving students helps show them their value, and encourages them to continue to achieve especially in those later years of university, where you start to get exposure to complex ideas and that critical thinking that is so essential in the workplace.
“I believe those who are most successful in their careers, in business or otherwise, have learnt how to approach and manage projects well, think critically, and work with other people. These are all skills you learn and develop later at university, particularly if you carry on to post-graduate study.”