Countless New Zealanders’ and thousands of AUT students’ lives have been made a little richer thanks to the spaces and sharing of artworks made possible by the University’s new Honorary Doctors – Richard Harris and Sir James Wallace.
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Vice Chancellor, Derek McCormack said it was a pleasure to recognise the significant and ongoing impact of the two men.
“Honorary Doctorates are conferred on people who have made an outstanding contribution to society. It is a privilege to welcome Richard and Sir James into AUT’s academic whanāu,” he said.
Sir James Wallace was appointed Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the arts in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours list. The knighthood officially recognised his long record of supporting the arts and his generous philanthropy.
He used his acceptance speech to note that economic injustice makes philanthropy essential. He encouraged graduates to take up patronage of the arts, or other contributions and criticised current generations for their lack of generosity.
“We have had about two generations, who on the whole, have been excessively greedy and progressively self-indulgent. There are many great causes to assist but my personal campaign is for much better support for the Arts and Arts organisations which are always neglected in the wider scheme of things.
“Worse still, currently they are being targeted by relevant funding bodies as areas where they can reduce or eliminate grants. This is as devastating as it is incredibly short-sighted and ignorant. Philistines are the opposite of Philanthropists. Without a strong Arts and Humanities environment, society has a missing dimension,” he said.
Sir James, a Waikato-based primary industry entrepreneur, began collecting New Zealand art in the mid-1960s, with a particular focus on the work of emerging artists. In 1992 he transferred his collection to the newly established Wallace Arts Trust, which since 2010 has been based in the historic Pah Homestead in Auckland's Monte Cecilia Park.
His original aim was to assist emerging artists through both patronage and promotion through exhibitions. Nothing is ever sold from the Trust, so that the body of works, now numbering over 8,000, will remain in its entirety as a cultural resource for present and future generations.
For some years, greater public access has been given to the Sir James Wallace Arts Trust Collection by making artworks available to some 50 institutions ranging from schools, universities and science research establishments to hospitals. AUT has been a recipient of Wallace Collection art since the early 2000s, and currently has 325 works on display from the Wallace collection on our three campuses - the largest institutional collection in New Zealand outside the Pah Homestead.
Richard Harris is an influential leader in the architectural profession both within New Zealand and overseas. As former Chairman and Managing Director of Jasmax, Richard has had a transformational role in architecture in New Zealand. In 2017, Richard was recognised for this contribution by being named one of only four Distinguished Fellows by the New Zealand Institute of Architects.
In his acceptance speech, he shared with graduands the need for passion, self-belief, bold plans and luck.
“Even on paper with scribbles on it, everyone will see something quite different. We need to develop the power of believing what we see … go looking for that difference and grow to understand the value of your own special qualities.
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir one’s blood. Make big plans – aim high in hope and work,” he said.
Richard has led architectural teams on some of New Zealand’s largest and best-known projects, including the restorations of Auckland’s Civic Theatre and Town Hall, and Eden Park’s 2010 redevelopment. His 20-year partnership with AUT and its city centre campus masterplan has resulted in many changes to city central developments, including the internationally acclaimed Sir Paul Reeves building.
More than twenty years involvement with the physical development of AIT and AUT has made Richard’s mark on the built environment at the University and helped attract staff and students to new facilities that are world-class and award-winning.
Richard Harris has led or significantly influenced numerous buildings and projects at AUT including the city campus Nga Wai Hono Building (2018), Sir Paul Reeves Building (2013) and Business School (2005); South Campus Mana Hauora Building (2017); and the North campus Learning Centre (2005).