Friday 12 October 2018 7:33pm
Departing Law Professor, Mark Henaghan, walks through a surprise guard of honour yesterday. Photo: Sharron Bennett.
Departing Law Professor, Mark Henaghan, doesn’t use social media – so he was utterly surprised at a huge, and moving send-off organised for him yesterday by his students.
Law students, alumni and staff came together on campus, creating a guard of honour between the Archway 4 Lecture Theatre where Professor Henaghan delivered his final Family Law lecture, and the Union Hall where a party was organised for him.
“I felt totally surprised, stunned, amazed and also very honoured that busy students and colleagues and others on campus would take time out of their day to give me such a send-off," he says. "It was a very humbling experience which I appreciate deeply and will never forget for the rest of my life.”
Professor Henaghan, who has taught at Otago for 41 years and was Dean of the Faculty of Law for 19 years before stepping down earlier this year, has accepted a professorship at the University of Auckland Law School.
While the move is a positive one, driven by a desire to be close to his little granddaughter – “and get to know her and hopefully other grandchildren” – he says he feels very sad to be leaving.
“This has been my home, my turangawaewae, my place of being and identity for 47 years. It’s a big change for me and I will miss Otago greatly.”
Professor Henaghan gave his final Family Law lecture yesterday morning, providing his class with some sage advice – “just keep swimming” and offering his traditional reading from Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince.
The event, organised via Facebook by the Society of the University of Otago Law Students (SOULS), then saw members of the Faculty of Law stream into the lecture theatre, with new Dean Professor Jessica Palmer and SOULS President Tim Austen delivering speeches, and SOULS awarding Professor Henaghan the first and only SOULS Honorary Life Membership.
"I felt totally surprised, stunned, amazed and also very honoured that busy students and colleagues and others on campus would take time out of their day to give me such a send-off. It was a very humbling experience which I appreciate deeply and will never forget for the rest of my life."
Hundreds of students and alumni waited outside, creating a cheering guard of honour leading from the theatre to the Union Hall, where they then sang him The Mark Henaghan Song – to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecelia.
“Mark, you're breaking our hearts,
You taught us our collegiality.
Oh, Mark Henaghan, why must you leave?
We’re begging you please to come home…”
Mr Austen, who led the surprise, says SOULS wanted to farewell Professor Henaghan and acknowledge his extraordinary contribution to Otago and to students during his time as Dean.
“Mark has been the number one supporter of Law students and SOULS for as long as I can remember,” he told the Otago Bulletin Board. “Mark has always had our back when it mattered most and has been a support person for the Executive as well as providing his guidance to navigate tricky situations. He has always put students first and he was incredibly humbled to see the huge support from his students.”
Professor Henaghan says he will “miss most of all the Otago students”.
“They are unique, they come from all over New Zealand and the country, they form special bonds, they make wonderful contributions to Dunedin’s life, they are imaginative, adventurous, generous and collegial.
“I will miss all the familiar faces I know around this campus. This campus is full of wonderful people and support staff who dedicate their lives and make a huge difference and academics who are very diverse, interesting, quirky and dedicated to their work.”
He paid a tribute to all of the staff on campus who keep the University ticking over.
“I have had the great pleasure of interacting with so many staff, ranging from the fantastic people in our media office to the telephonists, the gardeners, the cleaners, the support staff, the student health team, the experts in IT, the theatre technicians who help me every day, the administrative staff, the finance people, the examinations and graduations staff, the alumni office, the international office and most importantly the liaison teams who draw our students in from all over New Zealand and the world.
“The University is a massive team who in their own unique and generous ways keep us all going forward.”