Kind and modest duo receive AUT award

05 Mar, 2020
Dr Lola Van Wagenen and Dr George Burrill sitting on a couch, smiling.
Dr Lola Van Wagenen and Dr George Burrill.

A humble couple whose generous support has allowed students from Vermont to study at AUT, and vice versa, have received recognition.

Dr George Burrill and Dr Lola Van Wagenen were presented with Seddon Honorary Fellowships by Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack on March 2.

“The pair are incredibly generous and work tirelessly to initiate and promote reciprocal study abroad opportunities for study at AUT and Champlain College,” he says.

"They have an exemplary record of philanthropic support in New Zealand, and well-deserve this recognition.”

About 100 Champlain students and 20 from AUT have been on exchanges thanks to the United States couple that spends half of each year in New Zealand.

AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack shaking hands with Dr George Burrill and Dr Lola Van Wagenen.


Dr Burrill says he supports the initiative as when he was on the board of Champlain College he saw it was important for its students to have overseas experience - and Aotearoa was the perfect place for them to come.

He believes AUT is the closest New Zealand university in values, approach and style to Champlain – “more forward-looking and less rigid”.

"My hope is that the whole relationship will just continue to deepen and broaden, both in terms of the numbers of students going in both directions and the faculties they come from."

Dr Van Wagenen says both sets of exchange students experience a totally different setting, as Burlington, Vermont, is a small town compared to Auckland.

"For me watching these exchanges has been so enriching. And a lot of that also has to do with the wonderful experience we've had learning about our indigenous people, and your indigenous people. This has added such beauty to our experience of New Zealand."

Pro Vice-Chancellor of Māori Advancement, Pare Keiha, nominated the couple.

“Dr Burrill and Dr Van Wagenen are a kind and modest duo who do not like being fussed over or treated as special human beings, nor do they allow themselves any acknowledgement and recognition of the significant impact their contributions have had with many people in their communities.”

Pro Vice-Chancellor of Māori Advancement, Pare Keiha, nominated the couple on behalf of Nga Whānau Māori ki Horotiu.

“Dr Burrill and Dr Van Wagenen are affectionally referred to as Papa George and Whaea Lola.  It was such an honour to say thank you to George and Lola for their support of our students. I have every confidence that the experience will change their lives.”

Senior Lecturer Jason King helps to facilitate the ongoing exchange, and says the modest couple are strong supporters of the unique AUT International Student Noho Marae programme which has been running for over 19 years.

George and Lola also support the North American Whānau Council East Coast programme which is in its 5th year of operation in the US and is growing an impressive whānau alumni base.

“They even host every AUT exchange student to Champlain College at their house in Vermont for dinner,” he says.

“George and Lola can be epitomised in the following aphorism: Manaaki whenua, manaaki tangata, he aroha whakatō, he aroha puta mai, which means: care for the land, care for the people, as kindness is sown, so shall it be received.”

There are currently 15 Champlain College students at AUT.

The four AUT students who will attend Champlain College in semester 2, this year, are: Shayla Crombie, Joshua Bedford, Cayleb Nepia and Maia Hemara-Tylden.

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