Monday, March 4, 2024

83-year-old graduate flies in for university reunion

An 83-year-old former student is travelling from Canada to attend 150th anniversary alumni celebrations at the University of Canterbury this weekend.

Dr John Gray, who lives in Victoria, British Colombia started studying at what is now Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), in 1959 – 64 years ago.  

Initially a theology student, Dr Gray planned to become a minister, but he ended up graduating with a master’s degree and then a Diploma in Clinical Psychology.  

“My time at UC had a huge impact on my life,” he says. “If had stayed on my original path I probably would have been a parish priest somewhere. But my vocational goals changed, and my studies set me up for a different career. I also met my wife Elizabeth while we were both students. We still have wonderful friends who we studied with in the Clinical Psychology programme.” 

Dr Gray left New Zealand in 1966, a year after graduating, and went on to carve out a distinguished career in the field of mental health in Canada. He usually makes a return visit to New Zealand every two years but decided to come back earlier than planned so he could join the upcoming University of Canterbury Alumni and Community Weekend, 27 – 29 October.  

“I’m getting a little bit older, and my brother and lots of my friends are here, so I thought, ‘Why not come back sooner?’,” Dr Gray says. 

He remembers having a lot of fun during his years as a UC student.

“It was so different from my time at high school in Whanganui. It was exciting and a challenge and there was a lot of learning – more than just book learning.”

“I was in College House hall for three years and it was a great experience, very social. We had meals together and we had fresher days. There were lots of sporting activities.” 

Dr Gray says studying at UC opened his mind to new possibilities and he enjoyed the challenging practical work experiences he had during his Clinical Psychology diploma. 

UC Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist says the Community and Alumni Weekend is one of many events celebrating the University’s 150th anniversary this year and will be a great chance for people to reunite with classmates and friends.  

“We’re thrilled to welcome back alumni from abroad, like John, as well as from across NZ.  In particular, we invite the Christchurch community to take a look at the many events we have planned – lectures, lab tours, booths explaining our research into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, music, and, most importantly, good food.” 

Graduates and members of the community are encouraged to register for any of the nearly 50 events over the weekend. The weekend will wrap up with a community picnic at the University.  

Dr Gray is now retired but his career in Canada included being the director of a psychiatric hospital and director of the British Colombia mental health service. As a volunteer, he was the President of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada and the Secretary General of the International Association of Gerontology. 

He still swims and goes walking regularly and returns to Aotearoa regularly to attend the New Zealand Masters Games. 

  • UC’s Alumni and Community Weekend is being held at the Ilam Campus from Friday October 27 to October 29. All activities are free but most require registration.  

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