Scholarship honours inspiring academic and educator

A memorial scholarship established in honour of Amber McWilliams enables others to follow her passion for literature and drama.

The scholarship is a fitting legacy for Dr Amber McWilliams: a former student, teacher, and mentor in the University’s disciplines of English and Drama. Amber’s memorial has encouraged a new generation of scholars.

Following Amber’s death from a brain tumour in 2018, Professor Joanne Wilkes set up the Amber McWilliams Memorial Scholarship, which provides financial support for students pursuing postgraduate study in English or Drama.

The scholarship has enabled several students to undertake further study and pursue their passions.

For Hannah McIntyre, the scholarship gave her the confidence and financial support to continue her journey into academia; for Kathryn Elia, it provided a haven and joy in books that goes back to her childhood; and for first-in-family graduate Sarah Alley, the scholarship has helped further her dream to teach and pass on her love of literature to future students.

“The Amber McWilliams scholarship has been a tremendous financial help to me and I felt very honoured to be selected as a recipient,” says Hannah McIntyre.

“Since there are very few scholarships for Arts students, the Amber McWilliams scholarship plays a highly significant role in encouraging postgraduate studies in the Arts.”

Amber completed a masters and PhD at the University of Auckland, where she also taught. She also worked in the Vice-Chancellor’s and Advancement offices, where her outstanding communication skills made a lasting impact.

Since there are very few scholarships for Arts students, the Amber McWilliams scholarship plays a highly significant role in encouraging postgraduate studies in the Arts.

Hannah McIntyre Recipient of the Amber McWilliams Memorial Scholarship, 2021

“Amber was really an all-round talent. I first encountered her in an early morning tutorial on medieval literature, where she fired away better than I did as a tutor,” says Professor Joanne Wilkes.

“Before illness ended her working career, she was an extraordinarily popular tutor in our Tertiary Foundation Certificate. This programme helps students who have the potential to succeed at university but who have not matriculated: it is a very varied group, but Amber related well to everyone.”

Even into the last week of her life, Amber worked on the Creative Thinking Project: a labour of love that combined her passion for the arts, research, and teaching and whose goal was to open people’s eyes to the importance of creativity.

“From the age of nine, up to and including university years, Amber had roles in plays and TV series but realised that education was the most important thing,” says Vanya Lowry, Amber’s mum.

“She paid her own way with performance and scholarships, supported by me and her dad, and later by her husband and son. We all still miss her every single day. When a memorial scholarship in her name was suggested, I was only too happy to contribute.”

The Amber McWilliams Memorial Scholarship was established in 2019 and is endowed in perpetuity.

If you are interested in making a donation or setting up an Arts scholarship, contact development manager Anne Liddle at

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