Sign up now!

Otago announces December Graduation Honorary Doctorates

Thursday 29 November 2007, 7:55AM
By University of Otago


Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg today announced that four honorary degrees will be awarded during the University of Otago's December graduations.

The awarding of honorary degrees is a centuries-old custom in which distinguished persons become members for life of the university concerned or – in the case of persons who are already graduates of the University – are promoted to the highest academic level in the University.

The four distinguished recipients are opera singer Patricia Payne, historian and surgeon Dr John Hall-Jones, pathologist Emeritus Professor John Gavin and virologist Dr Robert Webster.

Professor Skegg says the four individuals are of the highest calibre and the University is delighted that they have accepted its invitation.

Ms Patricia Payne
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Music
1 December 2007 Graduation

Patricia Payne was born in Dunedin and educated at Otago Girls' High School. She graduated from the Dunedin Teachers' Training College in 1960. Between 1968 and 1973, she was awarded six QEII Arts Council awards and, after winning the Sydney Sun Aria Competition in 1966, travelled to England in 1967 to further her singing studies with internationally recognised teachers.

From 1973 to 1979, she was a Company Member and mezzo-soprano soloist of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Since becoming a freelance singer in 1979, Ms Payne has sang important roles in virtually every major opera house in the world. As well as her international opera career, she has had an extensive concert repertoire.

Dr John Hall-Jones
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
5 December 2007 Graduation
(Please note, this graduation is at the Southland campus.)

John Hall-Jones graduated with the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Otago in 1953 and, after postgraduate training in London, made major contributions to the area of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery and postgraduate medical education in Southland.

History is his great love. He has written more than 30 books, the majority of which are on the history of Fiordland and Southland. Dr Hall-Jones' work includes several books on his famous ancestor, John Turnbull Thomson, histories of the South, illustrated guides to the region, and histories of local Southland institutions. He has also been a major supporter of the Hocken Library.

Emeritus Professor John Gavin
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science
8 December 2007 Graduation

John Gavin first graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree with Distinction in 1959. He received the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery with Distinction in 1964, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1968, and the degree of Doctor of Science in 1988. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of the United Kingdom and of the Faculty of Oral Pathologists of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.

After working at the University of Otago, he was appointed as Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Auckland in 1970 and promoted to a Personal Chair in Experimental Pathology in 1976. More recently, he has been a member of the New Zealand Cancer Control Steering Group and the Cancer Control Task Force.

Throughout his career, he has maintained strong links with the dental profession and with the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Otago. He has been a member of the New Zealand Dental Association since 1959 and was made an Honorary Life Member in 1986 for his contribution to the work of the New Zealand Dental Research Foundation. He was Chairman of its Board from 1980 to 1990.

Dr Robert Webster
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science
15 December 2007

Robert Webster gained his BSc in 1955 and his MSc in Microbiology in 1957 from the University of Otago. Following this, he worked as a virologist with the New Zealand Department of Agriculture from 1958 to 1959. He gained his PhD from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra in 1962. He spent two years as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Michigan, then became a Research Fellow in Microbiology at ANU's John Curtin School of Medical Research from 1964 to1966.

On returning to the United States in 1968, Dr Webster began his long distinguished affiliation with St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr Webster is renowned for his work on avian influenza. In 2002, he was awarded the Bristol-Myers Squibb award for distinguished achievement in Infectious Diseases Research. He is currently the Rose Marie Thomas Chair of the Virology Division of the Department of Infectious Diseases at St Jude's. He is also Director of the World Health Organization's US Collaborating Centre for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds – the only laboratory designed to study influenza at the animal-human interface.

Dr Webster has maintained a strong interest in and given strong support to the University of Otago, its Department of Microbiology and its graduates. He has also been a strong supporter of New Zealand having its own capabilities for vaccine and anti-microbial development to combat threats from infectious diseases.