Jim Greatbanks

Jim Greatbanks still feels a strong connection to Mount Albert Grammar School and the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Engineering even though it’s been more than 40 years since he graduated.

Left to right: Jim Greatbanks, Warwick Gibbs (Academic Dean, Mt Albert Grammar) and the first Jim Greatbanks Scholarship recipient, Kenneth Zhau.

The Jim Greatbanks Mount Albert Grammar School Engineering Scholarship, which was established in 2017, reflects this rapport and encourages Mount Albert Grammar students to follow the same path he did all those years ago.

“You always want to see people succeed but you see instances where people struggle to get there because they don't have the financial resource. I've always had it in the back of my head that I’d like to do something for the school but I was never quite sure what I would do.”

Although he has lived in Canada since 1979, Jim still maintained a link to his old school and stayed in touch as it evolved throughout the years.

"I have a real love of Mt Albert Grammar, most times I came back from Canada I would visit the school. I felt the teachers were very nurturing. Some of them would really work to encourage you and try to get you going. That was what I loved and that was the spirit I took away with me. There was a sense of oneness. We were all one, so we did everything together.”

Jim also looks back on his time at the Faculty of Engineering with fond memories of valuable life lessons from his lecturers and the odd good-natured prank as well. Importantly, he feels that same spirit is still alive today.

“I had a lot of fun here. It's funny, it's now almost three times the size it was when I was there but it hasn't really changed, not in my mind. I think it's the culture, the place, the surroundings and just so many things that are fundamental about the faculty that are still there to this day. I remember one lecturer in my last year who said now you're going to work and now your education begins - and that stuck in my head forever.”

Jim also talked about the traits he has that set him up for success in an engineering environment, even though he didn’t quite realise where these were leading at the time.

“In hindsight, I was born to be a mechanical engineer. I'd been pulling my car apart since I was 15 years old, I used to build little steam engines as a kid. Things that move have always fascinated me, so it was just a no-brainer.”

About the scholarship

The Jim Greatbanks Mount Albert Grammar School Engineering Scholarship is offered annually, aiming to encourage students to follow Jim’s path from Mount Albert Grammar through to the Faculty of Engineering, while continuing to build links between the two institutions.

The scholarship criteria was built around Jim’s desire to select recipients who expressed academic ability, strong leadership potential and financial need. The inaugural recipient of the scholarship is Kenneth Zhau. Kenneth’s academic ability is evidenced by the Robert Wilmott Memorial Prize for excellence across all subjects he won in 2015, as well as achieving Excellence grades in physics in chemistry specifically. In 2016, his character was recognised when he received the Neville Watson Memorial Award for “best typifying the Mount Albert Grammar spirit” and the Isaac Gray Cup for “service to the school”. He also demonstrated his leadership potential through his role as prefect.

When Kenneth was two years old he was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. He currently wears a cochlear implant, but now that he’s 18 he is responsible for the costs of all parts, batteries and related medical hearing examinations going forward in addition to the usual costs associated with studying at university. The scholarship will significantly ease the pressure on Kenneth as he starts his engineering degree.

This story was originally published on May 2018.