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A colourful, joyful tribute to 150 years

Wednesday 5 June 2019 11:26pm

A fireworks display in the Octagon on Saturday night was just one of many events held over Queen's Birthday weekend to celebrate the University of Otago's 150th birthday. Photos: Sharron Bennett.

The photos tell the story – the 150th celebrations at Queen’s Birthday weekend were a colourful, joyful tribute to the past 150 years and a window to the hope and promise of Otago’s future.

It was a weekend of friends reconnecting, sharing memories and visiting old stomping grounds – including the 75 who gathered for the Otago University Students’ Association 1957-1970 executive reunion.

It was a time to honour scholarship and display our history, our research and our people. It provided a wonderful opportunity to showcase and enjoy our fabulous musical talent, and a time to join together in a celebratory church service. Finally, it was the perfect time to play some rugby.

The weekend began with a Mayoral reception at the Otago Museum, followed by the opening of the 150th University of Otago Exhibition Dare to be Wise.



The exhibition comprises three sections – Dare focusses on bold ventures, To Be on the lived Otago experience, and Wise on knowledge and wisdom gained and shared by people at the University of Otago.




Despite the cold snap (it did rain on our parade but the gowns flapped elegantly in the cold southerly) people were enthusiastic about the campus tours, and a large crowd of friends, family and alumni enjoyed the rare spectacle of the Convocation Ceremony on Saturday afternoon.




Complete with the residential college’s gonfalons hanging around the Dunedin Town Hall, stirring organ music and brightly-coloured regalia, the focus of the ceremony was the awarding of four Honorary Doctorates, to Professor Atholl Anderson, Papali’i Dr Viopapa Annandale-Atherton, Sir Bill English and Ms Brigid Inder OBE.


In her speech at the ceremony, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said the face of our University community has changed and is now richly diverse.

“Despite all our differences the one thing we have in common is that we are fiercely independent. As a university we pride ourselves on nurturing graduates who understand the value of free speech, who don’t shirk from ideas that are different from their own, who have the ability to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and who are not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom.

“In a world where resilience has become a very rare commodity, Otago will continue to be a place which fosters resilience. Being a scarfie brings with it the kind of audacity that the world needs more of.”

Also at the ceremony, the Governor-General of New Zealand, Her Excellency the Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, read out birthday wishes from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.


The rain held off in the evening for the blue and gold fireworks display in the Octagon, and more than 400 people packed the Dunedin Town Hall for the 150th anniversary dinner. The evening included speeches (and a dance) from the honorary degree recipients, full of fond recollections and reflections on the place Otago has held in their lives.





A full congregation attended the celebratory church service at Knox Church on Sunday morning, and watched afterwards as the Vice-Chancellor released doves in the church garden.




The Gala Concert on Sunday evening, A Celebration of Otago in Words and Music, was a feast of prose, poetry and music with connections to the University from the early days right up to the present. Performers included the University’s talented staff, local musicians and alumni stars.


The 150th Gala Concert Orchestra and Choir were joined by the 2019 Capping Sextet, vocal soloists Anna Leese, Rebecca Ryan, Kawiti Waetford and Joel Amosa, pianist Professor Terence Dennis, violinist Tessa Petersen, cellist Dr Heleen Du Plessis, organist David Burchell, alongside MCs Lisa Warrington and Peter Hayden and conductors Professor Anthony Ritchie, Associate Professor Peter Adams and Dr Karen Grylls. The concert raised more than $14,000 for EXPINKT™ breast cancer exercise rehabilitation charity.


On Monday, the sun came out for the traditional Knox v Selwyn colleges’ rugby match, with Selwyn winning 38-17 and taking away the Somerville Shield.




The Garden of Earthly Delights exhibition was also on at the Hocken Library during the weekend. The exhibition comprises rare, interesting and beautiful objects while celebrating 150 years of teaching, research, exploration and collecting. Exhibition pieces were chosen from the Hocken Collections, the Otago Library’s Special Collections, the Health Sciences Library, the Embellishment Collection, the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship Trust Collection, the W. D. Trotter Anatomy Museum, and research collections in the Archaeology, Botany, and the Geology departments. It continues until 11 August.