Famous past students

Our past students (alumni) are living proof of our belief that a quality degree will last a lifetime. After graduating from the University of Auckland, these students (and many others like them) have gone on to contribute in all sorts of amazing ways to New Zealand society and the international community.

Dame Cheryll Sotheran - Museum professional - BA, MA


Dame Cheryll Sotheran is renowned internationally as a gifted and able museum professional. Her commitment to positioning museums at the heart of their communities culminated in her appointment as the first Chief Executive of the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. The brilliant execution of Te Papa as a world class museum, a museum built to time and under budget, is a triumph because of the size and complexity of the task. The considerable international attention and acclaim continues for Cheryll as Te Papa delights the audiences which flock to the museum in unprecedented numbers. As a specialist in the field of visual arts, Cheryll has received many awards for services to arts and culture, but it is her drive and ability to inspire and motivate her team to achieve the 'mission impossible' which differentiates her from others. Cheryll received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1999.
 

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Dorothy Butler - Author and literacy advocate - BA, DipEd


Dorothy gained her Bachelor of Arts (BA) at Auckland University College in 1946, returning to complete her Diploma in Education (DipEd) in 1975. Dorothy's thesis for her DipEd became the basis for Cushla and Her Books, the first of several books to win international acclaim. Dorothy has written for children as well as parents, and her famous bookshop also helped raise the standard of children's literature. The Dorothy Butler Reading Centre for children with reading problems was established in 1977. In 1979 she received the Eleanor Farjeon Award for her contribution to children's literature, in 1985 the American Library Citation for Cushla, in 1991 the Children's Literature Association of New Zealand Honour, in 1992 the Margaret Mahy Lecture Award and in 1993 the OBE. Dorothy received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2001.

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Dr Allan Badley - PhD


Dr Allan Badley has almost single-handedly been responsible for a worldwide revival of interest in composers of 18th century music, like Hofmann, Beck, Dittersdorf and Vanhal - names which were better known in their own day than those of Mozart and Haydn, and whose music had been completely forgotten. Artaria, which he co-founded in 1995, has published and exported over 400 titles, literally reaching millions of people worldwide. Its customers include research libraries (the English National Library), universities, instrumentalists and orchestras. In February 2002, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Tower Voices New Zealand made the world premiere recording of Hummel's Missa Solemnis in C and Te Deum in D from Allan's editions. This recording is considered one of the most significant of classical repertoire ever made in New Zealand. Much of Allan's work has also provided an important international platform for New Zealand artists. Allan broadcasts regularly on Concert FM and National Radio. Allan has a PhD and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003.
 

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Dr Allan Bollard - Economist - BA, MA, PhD


Allan first worked as an economist with the South Pacific Commission in Noumea and then as an economics consultant in London. In 1983 he joined the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research as a senior research officer, serving as director from 1987. In 1994 he was appointed chairman of the Commerce Commission, and in 1998 was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, a top public service economics post. Allan received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998.
 

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Dr Claudia Orange - Historian - BA, MA, PhD


Claudia is a renowned historian. Her book The Treaty of Waitangi, has transformed national understanding of the importance of the Treaty. As general editor of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Claudia has contributed enormously to the shaping of national identity. She received a New Zealand 1990 Medal and an OBE in 1993. Claudia has a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master of Arts (MA), a PhD and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.

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Dr John Mayhew - ex-All Blacks' Doctor - MBChB, DipObst, DOccMed


Born in Shoreham, England but a Kiwi since the 1950s, John was 'Doc' to the All Blacks and an alumnus of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences having achieved a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) in 1979,  Diploma in Obstetrics (DipObst) in 1980 and a Diploma in Occupational Medicine (DOccMed) in 2003. John's retirement in 2004 from the New Zealand Rugby Union ended a 15 year career with the All Blacks that spanned 5 coaches, 131 test matches and over 200 games. John's book, Doc Mayhew: Rugby's Medicine Man, recounts those exciting years. As a boy John played soccer (his grandfather was a one-time captain of the Wolverhampton Wanderers) and cricket before switching to rugby at age 15. His career as a rugby player included the Northcote seniors and North Harbour B. John runs a sports medicine practice at Auckland's Millennium Institute, and is clinical director for Sovereign Assurance.
 

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Emeritus Professor Sir Graham Liggins - Medical scientist - PhD


Graham was regarded as one of New Zealand's most internationally famous medical scientists. In the Medical School's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from 1960, he pioneered the treatment of babies while still in the womb. Graham is best known for his research into mechanisms which initiate labour, and into preventing lung disease in premature babies. Millions of preterm babies around the world are alive today as a direct result of his work. Graham had a PhD and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998. He passed away in 2010.

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Gretchen Albrecht - Visual artist - DipFA(Hons)


Gretchen Albrecht left Elam School of Fine Arts as the most distinguished student of her year having gained a Diploma in Fine Arts (Honours) (DipFA(Hons)). She continued her artistic career in this outstanding mould. Her first one-person exhibition took place when she was just 21 years old, and was opened by Colin McCahon. To date, Gretchen has had over 50 individual and 60 selected group exhibitions both in New Zealand and abroad. Her commissions are extensive, ranging from banners and backdrops for opera and dance to private and corporate commissions and wine labels. She is represented in major art collections both within New Zealand and overseas, and has taken a leadership role in promoting New Zealand art internationally. Gretchen has always been generous in her assistance to younger, yet-to-be-discovered artists. She is pre-eminent in her field as New Zealand's most established and recognised female artist.

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Hugh Fletcher - Business leader - BSc, MCom(Hons)


At a time when increasingly there was disquiet in New Zealand over the widening gap between the owners of capital and workers, Hugh Fletcher stood out. He firmly advocates linking organisations and the people within them, as well as organisational and personal prosperity through continuous learning. Hugh Fletcher has played a major role in developing New Zealand industry as chief executive of Fletcher Challenge. His links with the University are strong. He gained a Bachelor of Science (BSc) 1969 and Master of Commerce (Honours) (MCom(Hons) in 1974 in addition to an MBA from Stanford University. He has shown strong support for the University, principally as a member of the advisory board which advocated Management Studies during the seventies and more recently by maintaining an interest in Economics and Executive Education. Hugh received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1996 and he became the University's Chancellor from October 2004 through to December 2008.

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Maurice Gee - Author - BA, MA, LittD


Maurice is one of New Zealand's most prolific and influential novelists. He has published over a dozen novels, a collection of short stories, and at least eight books of fiction for children. Live Bodies won the New Zealand Book of the Year Award in 1998. Plumb (1978), the first in a trilogy of novels covering over a century of New Zealand history, earned him four awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Britain. Maurice has a Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Master of Arts (MA), received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998 and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature (LittD) in 2004.
 

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Michael Jones - ex-All Black - BPlan, BA, MA


Michael Jones is widely regarded world-wide as the most outstanding rugby player of his generation. In his 11 years as an All Black, Michael proved an exemplary role model and shown outstanding determination in returning from daunting injury. Michael received a New Zealand Medal in 1990 for service to the Pacific Island community. He holds a Bachelor of Planning (BPlan),  a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Master of Arts (MA) and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.

 

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Niki Caro - Director - BFA, MFA


Niki Caro is one of New Zealand's most original and inventive filmmakers. Her work is now known and acclaimed internationally through the film Whale Rider. The film has scooped a sheaf of awards including an Oscar nomination for best actress for 13-year-old leading actor Keisha Castle-Hughes, and eight audience awards at prestigious international film festivals. Niki directed the film and wrote the screenplay with Witi Ihimaera, based on his book of the same name. She has also been honoured by her peers with a 2003 Humanitas Award, an American-based prize for film and television makers whose work offers insight into contemporary society.

Whale Rider is the culmination of almost 15 years in the film and television industry since her graduation from Elam School of Fine Arts in 1988, during which she has produced a body of outstanding work. Niki's first feature film, Memory and Desire, was selected for Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998 and voted Best Film in the 1999 New Zealand Film Awards. Niki also received a Special Jury Prize for her work as writer and director. Niki has been a leading contributor to local television content, writing and directing a number of dramas including the award-winning best drama series True Life Stories, Jackson's Wharf and Mercy Peak. Niki has a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.
 

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Philippa Boyens - Screenwriter - BA


Oscar winner Philippa Boyens, is one of New Zealand's most internationally respected screenwriters. She studied part-time for her Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in English and History, and graduated in 1994. Philippa is best known as principal script-writer, along with Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, for the screen adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings triology. This is the largest film project to date ever undertaken in New Zealand. The script was honoured with an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. In 2004 Philippa won an Oscar and a BAFTA for The Return of the King (Best Adapted Screenplay) and was nominated for both of these categories in 2002 for The Fellowship of the Ring. Her success in adapting Tolkien's work to the screen has helped bring international recognition for the New Zealand film industry and New Zealand in general. The script has been honoured with multiple screenplay nominations in various international cinema awards. Philippa worked on Peter Jackson's script for the remake of King Kong, released in December 2005. Earlier in her career Philippa worked in theatre as a playwright, was a teacher, producer and editor, and was also the Director of the New Zealand Writer's Guild. In 2000 she was named by Variety magazine in its list of "Ten Best Writers to Watch". Philippa received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2006.
 

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Right Honourable Dame Sian Elias - Chief Justice - LLB(Hons)


After graduating from The University of Auckland in 1972 with a  Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (LLB (Hons)), Dame Sian practised as a barrister 1975 - 1988, took silk in 1988, became a Judge of the High Court in 1995 and was appointed Chief Justice in 1999. Dame Sian has appeared in a number of Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal hearings, and also appeared as counsel in litigation relating to the Treaty, as well as many non-Treaty cases. In 1990 she was awarded the commemorative medal for services to the legal profession, and in 1999 she was made Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and appointed to the Privy Council. In 2003 Dame Sian was appointed to the Supreme Court. In 2001, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University.
 

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Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt, ONZ - MA(Hons)


The Right Honourable Jonathan Hunt, ONZ, attended Auckland Grammar School and The University of Auckland, gaining an Master of Arts (Honours) (MA(Hons)) in 1961 before becoming a teacher at Kelston Boys' High School (1961-1966) and tutor in history at the University (1964-1966).

In 1966, as President of the Princes Street Branch of the Labour Party , he stood successfully for the seat of New Lynn and entered Parliament as the country's youngest Member of Parliament (MP). He held the seat until 1996 when he became a list MP. Known as 'father of the House', Jonathan was the longest-serving MP until he resigned in March 2005 to take up a three-year post as New Zealand High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ambassador to Ireland. Jonathan has served as Whip, Deputy Speaker and was a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government from 1984-1990, holding the portfolios of telecommunications and broadcasting, postmaster general, tourism, and housing. Jonathan was leader of the House from 1987-1990. He was also the instigator of the Adult Adoption Information Act (1985). In November 1989, Jonathan was appointed to the Privy Council. He was unanimously elected Speaker in December 1999, and returned to the position in 2002. Jonathan was appointed to the Order of New Zealand (the country's highest honour, restricted to 20 members) for services to Parliament in the New Year Honours List 2005. In 2006, Jonathan received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University.
 

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Tom Schnackenberg - Science advocate and sail designer - BSc, MSc, Hon DEng


Tom, an outstanding ambassador for science, the University, New Zealand industry and New Zealand, has been sailing on a wave of achievement ever since he secured a first class masters degree in Physics. Tom brought sails into the computer age, adding new designs and new ways of testing. He contributed to the vision behind the building of the Twisted Flow Wind Tunnel at the Tamaki Campus, which simulates the winds to see how sails behave, and also contributes to medical science with the analogy to blood flow with valves as 'sails'.
Tom has worked with the University's Yacht Research Centre, was sail coordinator for 'Australia' II, III and IV in 1981-7 when they sailed to victory in the America's Cup, design coordinator for Team New Zealand and 'Black Magic' in 1993-5 and again in 2000, and in 2003 he headed the Team New Zealand syndicate. Tom has further extensive sports interests, including coaching the New Zealand yachting team for the Olympic Games in 1992 and 1996. Tom has a Bachelor of Science (BSc), a Master of Science (MSc), an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering (Hon DEng) and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2003.
 

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Wilson Whineray - ex-All Black and sportsman - BCom


Wilson Whineray was All Black captain from 1958 to 1965. he holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University and went on to gain an MBA from Harvard Business School. He then joined what is now Carter Holt Harvey Limited, rising to deputy managing director, and chairman of directors. Wilson chaired the Hillary Commission, which encourages people to get involved in sport and physical activity and funds sports bodies to this end. In 1963 he was awarded an OBE and he was New Zealand Sportsman of the Year in 1965. Wilson received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University in 1997.
 

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