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Otago to confer honorary degrees on Michael Cullen, Trevor Scott

Sun striking the Clocktower

Wednesday, 9 December 2009 3:07pm

The University of Otago will confer the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws on former Deputy Prime Minister Hon Dr Michael Cullen and prominent Otago businessman and community benefactor Trevor Scott next week.

Dr Cullen and Mr Scott will receive their degrees at the graduation ceremonies on Wednesday 16 December and Saturday 19 December, respectively.

University Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg says that Dr Cullen’s honorary degree recognises his contributions as an Otago academic and as a respected and highly influential politician.

“Over the past decade in particular, Michael Cullen has played a pivotal role in many aspects of the nation’s political and economic affairs,” Professor Skegg says.

Before his election in 1981 as a Member of Parliament for Dunedin’s St Kilda electorate, Dr Cullen was a Senior Lecturer in the University’s Department of History, which he joined in 1971.

Among his publications while at Otago were two books: The Statistical Movement in Early Victorian Britain: The Foundations of Empirical Social Research (1975) and Lawfully Occupied: The Centennial History of the Otago District Law Society (1979).

During a notable parliamentary career spanning nearly three decades, Dr Cullen served in a number of key roles including Deputy Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party (1996-2008), Deputy Prime Minister (2002-2008), Minister of Finance (1999-2008), Leader of the House and Attorney-General. He retired from Parliament in April of this year and last month became Deputy Chair of New Zealand Post.

Born in London, Dr Cullen moved to New Zealand in his childhood and went on to attend Christ’s College on a scholarship. He graduated with a BA in Mathematics and a MA in Pure and Applied Mathematics and History from the University of Canterbury, where he won the titles of Junior and Senior University Scholar.

Dr Cullen then travelled to the University of Edinburgh on a Commonwealth Scholarship and gained a PhD in Social and Economic History, after which he returned to New Zealand to take up his post at Otago.

As well as receiving his honorary doctorate, Dr Cullen will also deliver the graduation address at the Wednesday ceremony.

In the ceremony on the following Saturday, the University will recognise the achievements of well-known Otago company director and philanthropist Mr Trevor Scott.

Since graduating with a BCom in Accountancy from the University in 1964, Mr Scott has pursued a highly successful business career in director and adviser roles for a wide variety of leading national companies.

Following a period as a partner in a Dunedin accounting firm, he founded accountancy and consulting firm T.D. Scott and Co in 1988.

In 2006, he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Directors and the following year was inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame. His services to business and the community were recognised through being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2008 New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Skegg says that during the past two decades Mr Scott has maintained a close involvement in the University.

“The University has benefited greatly from Trevor Scott’s business, accounting and financial acumen over his many years of service to the institution.

“Mr Scott was a valued member of the University Council from 1991 to 2005, and has also made important contributions to committees and boards relating to the University’s finances, commercial activities and residential colleges.

“These roles included chairing the board of Otago Innovation Limited, its predecessor, the Commercial Activity Board, and companies that have emerged from Otago research, such as BLIS technologies and Pacific Edge Biotechnologies Limited,” Professor Skegg says.

As well as sharing his expertise in governance, he also provided a generous endowment for a professorial chair in Urology under the University’s Leading Thinkers initiative.

Mr Scott has also driven efforts to promote Dunedin as a destination for international students, through initiatives such as the establishment of Education Dunedin and the Otago Language Centre, both of which he chaired.

His community work has included helping to establish the Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society and he was the inaugural president and first life member of its national body.

Mr Scott will deliver the graduation address at the Saturday ceremony.

For more information, contact

Simon Ancell
Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 5016
Email simon.ancell@otago.ac.nz