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Vice-Chancellor's comment

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Vice-Chancellor's comment

Professor Harlene Hayne discusses generosity, gifts and gratitude.

Each year during Orientation when I am speaking to students I highlight the relation between privilege, obligation and gratitude. For Otago students, privilege comes from the gift of education – a gift, that for many of them, will change their lives and lives of their children forever. That privilege also comes with a price tag and I remind students that the bulk of that price tag for domestic students is covered by the New Zealand taxpayers. I remind them that with the privilege of education comes the obligation to be grateful, to say thank you in multiple ways, to give back to the community that supported them, and to do great things with the gift they have been given.

In January this year, I found myself with the opportunity to practise what I preach. As you will read in this edition of the Otago Magazine, Dick and Jillian Jardine have gifted their amazing property on the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the University of Otago. On January 10, the Chancellor and I had the privilege of attending a function in their home where the official announcement was made. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Jardines for their amazing generosity and I promise that we will do great things with their gift.

It turns out that many of the special things we have at Otago originally started with a gift – the Vice-Chancellor’s Residence or the University Lodge where my husband Michael and I currently live was a gift from Annie Stevenson who gave her family home to the University of Otago on the proviso that the Vice-Chancellor always live there. We are the only university in New Zealand where the Vice-Chancellor has such a stately residence to reside in and host functions and visitors on behalf of the University.

Our Leading Thinkers Chairs and the two major equipment items that were provided through Leading Thinkers Initiative were also made possible by gifts from organisations and individuals – many of these donors are successful alumni or family members of alumni who got their start at Otago and who have expressed their gratitude by giving back to us. Each of these gifts has allowed us to do great things. And just before Christmas, we were gifted a series of stunning Paul Dibble sculptures from the Stewart Halls Residence Council. These graceful pieces of outdoor art will help us to maintain our position as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.

Every one of these gifts and many, many more were generous and remarkable, but for me, two things make the Jardines’ gift particularly generous and remarkable. Unlike many of our other gift-givers, the Jardines have no prior affiliation to the University. They have taken a major leap of faith by entrusting us with this spectacular property and we feel extremely appreciative of the amazing opportunities that it will afford. As a University community, we share their vision that their lovely home will become a place where world-class scholars come to meet, to think, to discuss, to debate and to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

The other thing that makes this gift particularly remarkable is that I know what this property means to the Jardines. The land has been in their family for generations. I also understand the vision and the blood, sweat and tears that it took to turn the bits and pieces of a smelly old woolshed into a magnificent piece of art that you can live in. The house and the property have been a labour of love and the University of Otago is incredibly grateful to be the beneficiary of that labour.

The American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “The mother of art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul”. I know how much of Dick and Jillian’s souls have gone into Woolshed Bay. On behalf of the University of Otago, I promise that we will be faithful stewards of the property in perpetuity.