Honorary Doctorate for former AB captain

2 October 2009
Former All Black captain and leading businessman Sir Wilson Whineray will receive an Honorary Doctorate from Waikato University in October.

"Sir Wilson is still widely considered New Zealand's greatest All Black captain," says University Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford. "He played the amateur game, studied for a commerce degree while he was still playing and went on to Harvard to graduate with an MBA before making a name for himself in industry."

While Sir Wilson is Auckland born and bred, he does have Waikato connections. His grandparents farmed near Te Awamutu and his father attended Hamilton High School. His working life began as an agricultural field cadet and because that required a lot of travel, he ended up playing his rugby for six provincial unions, including Waikato.

He was selected for the All Blacks in 1957 and in those days of lengthy tours and few tests he played a total of 77 games, leading the side through 67 matches. He played 32 tests for the All Blacks and was captain for 30.

Sir Wilson first joined Alex Harvey Industries in 1969. Twenty years later, after the company merged with Carter Holt he became Deputy Managing Director and then Director of Carter Holt Harvey. His association with the company continued until 2003 when he stepped down as chairman of the Carter Holt Harvey Board.

Since then Sir Wilson has coached rugby at club level, sat on the Eden Park Trust Board, held a number of advisory roles with the New Zealand Rugby Union and became its Patron in 2003. As well, he's sat on a number of boards. "I think Sir Wilson is a fine example of someone giving his best, and at different stages of his life has always looked for new opportunities to apply himself and use his knowledge and experience to improve various sectors of the community," says Prof Crawford. "It's no surprise that he received a knighthood for services to sport and business."

Sir Wilson says it's a real privilege to receive the Waikato honour. "By so, doing I become part of the University of Waikato community," he says. "If my life has had some degree of balance it may have flowed from a late night conversation I had with an All Black coach who I greatly respected. We were celebrating a major test victory earlier in the day when he said 'the merry-go-round we are now on is both interesting and exciting...but one day it will stop and we must get off. Do what you can to make the next part of your life also interesting and exciting'. I've tried."

Sir Wilson will have his doctorate conferred on Friday October 23 at the Founders Theatre in Hamilton.