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Retiring staff share a century of experience

Thursday, 1 June 2017 2:29pm

retiring image
Retiring ITS staff (from left) Mel Littlejohn, John Wilden, Jeffrey Sparrow, Wayne Cannan and Peter Huemmer.

Five staff retiring from Information Technology Services Teaching and Learning Facilities have more than 100 years’ experience working at Otago – and two even started and finished their working lives on the same days.

Information Technology Services Lecture Theatre Technician Mel Littlejohn has retired after about 40 years at the University, Lecture Theatres Coordinator Peter Huemmer after about 30, Lecture Theatres Senior Technician Wayne Cannan 18, Lecture Theatre Maintenance Technician Jeff Sparrow 15, and Lecture Theatre Technician John Wilden 12.

Mel Littlejohn

“It was good to know you were helping with the education of our young adults … being part of the vibrant society that the University is,” Mel says.

Leaving the campus is “one of those bittersweet times, when it will be nice to have more freedom to enjoy life, but I will miss the daily contact and friendship of my work colleagues.”

He turned his own photographic processing and printing hobby into a job when he became a trainee Medical Photographer at the University of Otago’s Photographic Unit in 1970, then eventually head of the unit.

His work involved everything from photographing patients – for medical records, teaching, and research – to aerial photography for Property Services, and forensic photography for the police and the Faculty of Dentistry.

After time out in the private sector, Mel returned to Otago as a medical photographer. When the unit was closed, he became a Lecture Theatre Technician.

In retirement, he plans to travel, fish, hunt, brew and – “of course” – relax.

Peter Huemmer

Peter’s dynamic working environment included discovering a long, mysteriously slimy trail on the floor of a commerce lecture theatre early one morning.

“At the end of the trail there was a kina – left over from a Friday lecture demonstration – making a mad dash for freedom at five centimetres per hour.”

The scope and complexity of Peter’s role evolved as teaching developed from a “chalk and talk model to the more modern, integrated, high-tech, audio-visual teaching model.”

He started at the University of Otago as an analyst for a selenium research project in the Department of Human Nutrition, dealing with about 25,000 samples.
After leaving to train as a teacher and teaching for several years, he returned as a Teaching Laboratory Coordinator at the School of Physical Education. He became Lecture Theatres Coordinator in 1997.

Peter has enjoyed “creating a first-class teaching and learning environment.”

In retirement, he will be farming a 12 hectare life-style block – “looking after the alpacas and sheep and our flock of cats” – while possibly indulging in some travel, and tackling a big bucket list.

Wayne Cannan

Originally employed at Otago for three hours a day, Wayne’s hours were boosted to six on his second day, then to seven-and-a-half hours on his third – and stayed that way.

He went on to become the first Lecture Theatre Technician at the College of Education, then Senior Technician Lecture Theatres in 2007.

His greatest enjoyment came from working with staff and students, tackling challenges, and keeping up with the latest technology.

In retirement, he will be doing maintenance on his home in Dunedin and holiday home in Middlemarch, taking holidays around New Zealand, and possibly visiting Tasmania.

He began and finished his working life on the same days as John Wilden. They both started as trainee telephone technicians at the New Zealand Post Office, on 12 December 1968 and retired from the University on 3 April.

John Wilden

Receiving personal thanks from lecturers taking the time to say they appreciated his help was a career highlight for John.

He has also watched technology and lecture theatre operation become so sophisticated many problems can now only be resolved by IT staff.

John started working at Otago while his son was working in the lecture theatres and told him about a vacancy.

In retirement, he plans to build and wire a model train layout, while also painting the scenery.

He and his wife will visit their daughter and her family in Indiana as well, including four-year-old Anastasia and six-month-old twins Amelia and Sophia.

Jeff Sparrow

The most memorable event in Jeff’s career was handling the actual slides from the late Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay’s world-first expedition to the summit of Mount Everest.

He started working at Otago after taking redundancy from the electronics department at Southland Hospital in Invercargill and attending Aspire Training to gain computing qualifications, then applying for an assistant technician vacancy.

He found his time at the University interesting, enjoyed keeping up with technology and particularly enjoyed working as part of a team “to get things going”.