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Massey University Defining Excellence Awards 2018

Nominations for the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Awards are now closed.

Information about the awards dinner will be announced early 2018.

Previous Winners


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Traci Houpapa

Distinguished Alumni Service Award 2016

Traci Houpapa has firmly cemented herself in New Zealand’s agribusiness industry, and has been instrumental in raising the profile of Maori agribusiness across the primary industry sector. She specialises in strategic and economic development, advising public and private sector clients. She is an experienced company director and holds a number of directorships and ministerial appointments.

In 2012, the 49-year-old was named one of the top 10 most influential women in New Zealand agribusiness, and, in 2013 the New Zealand Listener named her in the top 10 influencers in New Zealand.

In 2014, Ms Houpapa won the Women of Influence Board and Management Award and was named amongst the top three most influential people in New Zealand agribusiness by Rural News. Westpac identified her amongst New Zealand’s Women Power Brokers in 2015.

She has worked tirelessly to highlight the contribution Maori entities and iwi asset holders make to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Business Growth Agenda, aimed at doubling exports.

Ms Houpapa is well known for her role in promoting the development of women’s leadership and diversity on boards. She has an MBA from Massey University, and is a Member of the Order of New Zealand, a Justice of the Peace and a marriage celebrant.



John-Daniel Trask

Distinguished Young Alumni Award 2016

Entrepreneur John-Daniel Trask always knew he wanted to use technology to make businesses more efficient and profitable, and the 33-year-old has done just that. While at Massey Mr Trask ran a computer parts and repair company, and since then the software developer, investor and philanthropist has gone from Massey graduate to global software superstar.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Information Sciences, majoring in computer science, he initially worked for ICT company Intergen. But within three years he had left and, with a couple of friends and $30,000 of their own savings, formed investment company Pervasive Group. The first company they kick-started was Mindscape, developing and marketing high-performance tools for software developers. Mindscape, recently renamed Raygun, now has more than 6000 clients in 100 countries, including giants Microsoft, Xero and Dropbox.

Mr Trask was a founding member of philanthropic fundraising website Givealittle. Mindscape invested in, built and launched Givealittle before selling it to Spark (formerly Telecom) in 2012.

Last year Mr Trask was named the inaugural recipient of a New Thinking Award sponsored by Massey at the Wellington Gold Awards, for the creativity and innovation he has brought to the software sector as well as contributions he has made as an investor and philanthropist.

Mr Trask regularly returns to Massey to lecture about technology and business, and has employed several graduates at Raygun.



Professor Iain Hay

Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award 2016

Iain Hay is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Geography at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. The 55-year-old former Australian Discipline Scholar for the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, is a recent past President of the Institute of Australian Geographers and is currently Vice-President of the International Geographical Union.

Professor Hay, who graduated from Massey with a Master of Arts in 1985, completed his PhD at the University of Washington as a Fulbright Scholar and received a Doctor of Literature (LittD)

He has been the author and editor of 10 books, and has held editorial roles with journals including Applied Geography, Ethics, Place and Environment and Social and Cultural Geography. He is currently editor-in-chief of Geographical Research.

In 2006 he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year, and in 2014 was admitted as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK).

He has also been honoured with the 2009 Taylor and Francis Award of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers); the 2010 inaugural Association of American Geographers’ E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Award for outstanding contributions to the discipline of geography; and the New Zealand Geographical Society’s Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Medal.



Professor Graham Le Gros

Sir Geoffrey Peren Award 2016

Professor Graham Le Gros was appointed research director of Wellington's Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in 1994, following a three-year Fogarty Fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, Washington DC, and a five-year scientist position with Ciba-Geigy in Basel, Switzerland.

A Bachelor of Science graduate at Massey in 1978, he has been a recipient of an International Senior Wellcome Trust Fellowship and James Cook Fellowship. In 2005 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in recognition of his research contributions to the fields of immunology and asthma.

In 2010 Professor Le Gros was awarded the Wellington Medical Research Foundation Gold Medal, and in 2011 he won the Science and Technology category of the Wellingtonian of the Year Awards for his contribution to medical research.

The 59-year-old was awarded an Honourary Fellowship from The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia in 2014, in recognition of his immunology research, efforts for postgraduate training and contributions to pathology via his position on the committees of various organisations.

In June 2014, Professor Le Gros was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He is an active member of several science advisory and journal editorial boards, and has responsibility for the Science, Administration and Fundraising programmes of the Malaghan Institute.



Defining Excellence Awards

The Defining Excellence Awards were started in 2010 to acknowledge our top research and teaching staff , along with graduates who have achieved major success in their professions or industries or made outstanding community contributions.

Past Distinguished Alumni winners have included dairy industry stalwarts, former politicians, CEOs, world-changing nurses, health sector experts, a world cup-winning All Blacks coach and one of the founders of Weta Workshop.

Massey has a longstanding history of excellence in research and teaching dating back more than 125 years to the formation of the Wellington School of Design. Our staff has helped shape lives and communities in New Zealand and around the world. Launched more than 55 years ago, our distance learning programmes have secured for Massey, and for New Zealand, a profile as a distinctive tertiary education provider, focused on meeting the needs of our students and committed to enabling the widest possible access to education.

A defining feature of Massey University is its commitment to excellence and innovation in research-based teaching. This passion for excellence is clearly seen in our success at winning national awards in tertiary teaching excellence. We are proud of our award-winning teachers who have formed their own group known as TE@M and previous recipients are listed by year on the side menu. At Massey, the quality of teaching really matters, and our teaching and learning environment is distinguished by:

  • 14 National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards in all disciplines since 2002, including the Prime Minister’s Supreme Teaching award in 2008
  • Our commitment to research-driven pedagogy as a primary driver for teaching in all disciplines
  • Multi-mode teaching and learning opportunities which ensure we engage students in diverse locations and from diverse backgrounds
  • Our international reputation for innovation in online, blended and distance learning

Our annual Research Medals recognise the performance of those who participate in, and support, our research strategy. In particular they distinguish those who have provided leadership and exemplified excellence within our diverse community. The medals also acknowledge contributions to academic research through national and international collaborations and partnerships across the public and private sectors.

For the 2015 programme and winner profiles, click here.

To see images from the 2015 Defining Excellence Awards, click here.

Past Winners

Distinguished Alumni

Research Excellence:

Teaching Excellence