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New Chief Operating Officer for the University of Otago

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Thursday 28 January 2016 9:20am

Stephen Willis image
Mr Stephen Willis

The University of Otago has appointed a new Chief Operating Officer, taking effect from 11 April, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne announced yesterday.

The new appointment takes effect from the retirement date of long-time COO John Patrick.

“Following an international search, which attracted a number of very high-calibre applicants, I am pleased to announce that Stephen Willis has been selected as our new COO - a pivotal leadership role taking us forward in these challenging but also exciting times,” says Professor Hayne.

“He has the skills, drive and expertise to effectively manage a broad area of services and operations here at the University of Otago, not the least of which is our ambitious building programme. I very much look forward to working with him,” she says.

As Manager of the Capital Project Unit with Otago for the past six months, Mr Willis came to Otago with an extensive 14-year background in management and property development at Mater Health Services, a large not-for-profit private health services company in Queensland.

“I feel absolutely honoured, privileged and excited to come to an organisation that has been left in such an exceptional position thanks to the dedication and hard work of outgoing COO John Patrick. The University of Otago is a fantastic university, and I’m hoping I will play an influential role in shaping its future in the years ahead,” he says.

He is especially delighted to be able to put down permanent roots in Dunedin with his wife Cheryl and their three young children, and is looking forward to the challenge of seeing the University successfully through the biggest single construction phase in its history.

Dunedin offered a “fabulous lifestyle” and he and his family had already felt warmly embraced by the community.

Mater Health Services in Queensland had, in recent years, built the largest health-precinct in Australia, with property worth $1.3 billion, and employed some 7000 staff. His role as its Director of Built Environment from January 2012 to June 2015 was to deliver on the company’s capital works programme, overseeing property services as well as consumer services (retail, childcare, cafes, accommodation services and security).

Mr Willis’ tertiary qualifications include a Master of Project Management, from the University of Southern Queensland, an Advanced Diploma in Project Management from Southbank Institute of Tafe, and a Master of Health Science, from Queensland University of Technology, specialising in Health Service Management.

Originally trained as a registered nurse (Bachelor of Nursing, QUT) working in hospital care settings in Australia and the UK, Mr Willis went on to rise through the ranks of Mater Health Services from March 2002 to June 2015.

In July last year, he started with University of Otago Property Services, responsible for the effective delivery of $650 million worth of University capital developments.

For more information, contact:

Jo Galer
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Tel 03 4798263
Mob 021 279 8263

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