Uni all about 'infinity of other worlds'

World-beating author celebrates graduation

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 14/05/2014
Eleanor Catton
LUMINOUS SMILE: Booker Prize-winning author Eleanor Catton at the graduation parade. She received an honorary doctorate and gave the graduation address.
All Black Ma’a Nonu
GO BRO: All Black Ma’a Nonu with his brother Tulima before the Victoria University graduation parade yesterday. Tulima received a BA in theatre.

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A bit of drizzle could not wipe the smiles off the faces of students and families in Victoria University's graduation parade.

Joining them on their walk through central Wellington yesterday was Booker Prize-winning author - and Victoria alumnus - Eleanor Catton, who was presented with an honorary doctorate before giving a graduation address.

She told students from the faculties of humanities and social sciences and the New Zealand School of Music that they had infinite opportunities in front of them.

She joked she had gained a reputation for being too wordy - The Luminaries is more than 800 pages - so decided to focus on one of the shortest but most powerful words of all - if.

"Every discovery and advance in human knowledge began with ‘what if'," she said.

"The purpose of a university is not to replicate, but to enlarge; not to simplify, but to understand; not to reflect or serve the world in which we live, but to enrich it through the creation and exploration of an infinity of possible other worlds."

During her speech she also thanked the university and University Press publisher Fergus Barrowman for their support.

Earlier, students and their families gathered at the Law School before the parade along Lambton Quay to Civic Square.

Among the berobed and trenchered were All Black Ma'a Nonu and his brother Tulima, 26, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in theatre, and would like to become an actor.

"It's been awesome," he said. "A long journey but I'm so grateful for the support of my family."

Also graduating was Malia Tatafu-Vea, who brought her daughter, Potesio, 5, along for the parade.

Tatafu-Vea will receive a masters of science in psychology. From Tonga, she has been studying since Potesio was a baby in 2008. "It was a challenge but thank God it's over," she said. "I made it."

She will soon return to Tonga to work as a psychologist at the islands' largest psychiatric facility.

Standing out amid a largely well-dressed crowd was 21-year-old Jack Tolley, wearing shorts under his robe as he prepared to receive a bachelor degree in economics and environmental studies. "I've been cycling round the South Island for three months," he said. "I haven't managed to get a change of clothes from my flat yet. It's been a hectic morning."

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Graduation ceremonies continued in the evening for the faculty of education and carry on today for the faculties of engineering, science, architecture, design and law.

There will be another parade tomorrow, before ceremonies conclude with the Victoria Business School and Toihuarewa/Maori faculty.

- The Dominion Post

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