Pioneer of social work honoured

23:00, Nov 25 2012

Eighty-six-year-old Merv Hancock will be among the graduation gowns and mortar boards marching down Broadway Ave this week.

The Palmerston North man is considered a social work pioneer and will be receiving an honorary doctorate from Massey University on Friday.

Hancock said he was humbled by the recognition and happy for it to take place in his home town.

‘‘I’m extremely honoured and I’m deeply indebted to the social workers that I have worked with over the years, so it is on behalf of the social work profession that I am being conferred,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m very committed to the city, and very pleased to still be here as an older person.’’

Regarded as the founder of the modern social work profession in New Zealand, Mr Hancock spearheaded New Zealand’s first Bachelor of Social Work degree at Massey University.


He is a former city councillor and helped set up and progress many community groups and associations.

These included the Methodist Social Services, the Enterprise Board, the Workers’ Educational Association, the Palmerston North Parents Centre and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers.

Hancock’s interest in social work was sparked from a solid upbringing, he said.

‘‘My family were a very warm-hearted family and having concern for other people was conveyed to me by both my parents, and that shaped me,’’ he said.

He encouraged people to pursue social work as a profession because of the challenging yet rewarding nature of the job.

‘‘It’s the most worthwhile career, it’s very demanding, but there’s always something for you to achieve in this field. People who have a feeling for working for others should take the opportunity to try it.’’

He will be made an honorary doctor of literature in recognition of his work, his influence on the profession and his national contribution in the field of social work education.

Joining him will be 35 students being conferred with doctoral degrees, 108 students receiving master’s degrees, adding to the total of more than 450 Massey University students to be capped during the two graduation ceremonies on Friday.

However, there will be no free drinks in The Square for graduates and invited guests. The university has pulled its usual graduation cocktail party from The Square to avoid a technical breach of the liquor ban laws.

The graduates will move from the ceremonies at The Regent on Broadway to a marquee in The Square, where they will be served tea, coffee and non-alcoholic refreshments, and will be able to  buy alcohol as permitted under the caterer’s licence.

Manawatu Standard