Bryn's graduation with his mum, grandmother, dad, and sister
Bryn's graduation with his mum, grandmother, dad, and sister

One family celebrates three generations at Massey

When six-month-old Bryn Eruera Williams-Jones took his first visit to Massey’s Manawatū campus twenty-one years ago, he never thought he would become the third generation of the Williams whānau to graduate from Massey University. 

As this year’s commencement approached, he had memories of earlier generations graduating from Massey. For Bryn, the memories are particularly dear to his own family. Following in the footsteps of his mother, Catherine Williams, and grandfather, the late Dr Alan Williams, Bryn was awarded a bachelor’s degree in nursing at the Wellington graduation ceremony this October.

The third generation crosses the stage 

Dr Alan taught in Vietnam in 2001

No fewer than five members of the Williams family have either attended Massey or worked at Massey over the past three generations. The family’s proud association with the university began in the 1960s, when the late Dr Alan Williams, emeritus professor in Business Management, led the way at Massey for his son, daughter, and grandson by becoming a foundation lecturer in the Business Studies department. He gained his PhD in 1977 and rose steadily through the academic grades – first senior lecturer, then reader, then head of department, then to a personal chair in 1985 as professor of human resource management. 

During Alan’s final decade at Massey, he joined the School of Aviation with responsibility for studies in aviation management, which allowed him to refocus his professional interests on transportation studies, with particular emphasis on aviation development.

Alan’s wife, Bev Williams, was a pioneering member of and manager in Massey’s student computing and facilities section of Computing Services. As well as leading the development of computer services for students at the Manawatū campus, she was also a vital member of the teams that set up similar services at the Albany and Wellington campuses. Bev was the University Council staff representative from 1996-2002 and is proud of the work she undertook in that role.

A generation later, two of four of the Williamses chose to attend Massey: Catherine Williams (BA in Psychology, 1983) and Gareth Williams (BCon in Quantity Surveying, 2000).

When the day Bryn wore his academic regalia and crossed the stage, it meant the third generation of this family had completed their Massey journey.

“I almost cried, and tears were in my eyes,” says Bryn.

It was with huge regret for the family that their late husband/father/grandfather could not attend the graduation ceremony, nor did he see his grandson graduate. “The only thing that really saddens me is that my late husband Alan couldn’t be there. He was so supportive of education, it would have made his day to see Bryn graduate,” says Bev.

Growth and change through these years

With experiences of the university spanning nearly sixty years, the Williams’ memories of Massey and their time here offer unique insights into some of the changes that have taken place and a microcosm of its development. 

Bev recalls: things were large in the old times. “There were very early computing machines – no PCs then.” She was involved in purchasing the first ever IBM dual floppy machines for Massey when she was the operations manager. 

“Disks and tapes were famous at that time. Today, it’s just so much different – sitting in front of a small iPad – things are getting smaller. Not to mention the advanced techniques and equipment that support students’ distance learning,” Bev shares. 

Gareth at graduation
Gareth’s graduation

Catherine says that when she went to Massey in the early 1980s, “It was an interesting time in New Zealand because significant social and political shifts were happening, so in a way, they got reflected on the campus as well.”

Catherine’s brother Gareth also continued his association with Massey. He first completed a diploma in quantity surveying at Wellington Polytechnic. Not long after, Massey took it over and began offering a BCon (QS), so he could carry over credits from his diploma and complete another two years part-time at the degree level. Massey was one of the first universities in New Zealand to offer quantity surveying courses, and Gareth was one of the very first graduates in 2000.

“Massey has grown significantly from the original Manawatū campus – I have witnessed the development and expansion of the Albany campus. I’ve been impressed by the flexibility Massey offers and that it leads the way with part-time and extramural study options allowing students to work and study,” says Gareth.

For Bryn, the Wellington campus is quite different from the Manawatū campus because of the interesting mix of the College of Creative Arts and the School of Health. COVID-19 hit this country when Bryn was pursuing his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Massey’s Wellington campus. “I was on my last nine-week placement when the second wave came out. We weren’t allowed to be in the hospital while they were in lockdown because we were still student nurses. It was difficult, but we managed to cope with it.”

It all started here

Bev made the Korowai that Bryn is wearingSo, what paths have the Williamses taken since graduating from Massey?

Over the years, Catherine has explored counselling, social work, community development, and public policy in the UK and Aotearoa New Zealand. She spent a decade in the UK, working in a psychiatric hospital, on a project for vulnerable young women, and with a housing association. Catherine’s continued public service is displayed in her work history, and she was awarded a Master in Public Service Management from Aston University in Birmingham. She has further developed her skills in public policy and human-centered service design in various government ministries and departments in New Zealand since returning home in 2001.

Gareth has worked as a contractor’s QS and in professional practice in New Zealand and Australia, managing construction finances and contract administration on commercial projects. He’s lived in Singapore and worked all over Southeast Asia, China, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for four years in the insurance industry. 

Seven years ago, he moved to Fiji and started a business importing and constructing kitset homes with his partner. For the last seven months, they have been traveling New Zealand with two rescue dogs from Fiji in their motorhome while remotely managing the business in Fiji.

Following a well-travelled family path of public service, Bryn’s interest in nursing began at Wellington High School, right next door to the Massey campus, and he was determined to pursue his dream. Bryn is chasing that dream further by studying for a master’s in health policy at Victoria University in Wellington.

“I want a broader view of our health system, like health policy planning and service delivery, to look at a bigger picture,” says Bryn.

A family’s dream

Asked how it feels seeing your children follow in your footsteps and attend your alma mater, “It’s a wonderful feeling,” comments Bev. “To see that Catherine went to Massey, then Gareth, and to see grandchildren coming through. It’s just so thrilling that graduation brought back so many memories. That was wonderful.”

“Massey has got that lovely family feeling and warmth there. Also, it shows us the importance of education,” says Bev.

For Bryn, the study experience with Massy encouraged him to study further. “Listening to my lectures and seeing different types of research, I wanted to continue education as Massey’s academic staff have created an insatiable appetite for knowledge. 

“If anything has been passed down to me from granddad, it’s the importance of knowledge – it is a treasure of a lifetime. I chose Massey because of that legacy – seeing granddad complete his PhD, granny work at the university, and then mum and uncle study there, I wanted to continue that legacy!”

Massey is a special place for the family. “We call it ‘home.'"

Catherine, Bev and Bryn