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University News Six Little Images

Four honorary doctorates to be conferred


Published by the Communications and Development Department


24 January 2003


A distinguished artist, an eminent philosopher, an internationally renowned aerospace engineer and the first woman to be ordained in New Zealand will receive honorary doctorates from the University of Canterbury this year.


Receiving the doctorates will be artist Don Peebles (LittD), Emeritus Professor Peter Munz (LittD), Sir William Pickering (DEng), and Dame Phyllis Guthardt (LLD).


Don Peebles is one of New Zealand’s most distinguished living artists and who has had close associations with Christchurch and the University of Canterbury for nearly 40 years.


Emeritus Professor Peter Munz, considered to be one of the most eminent sons Canterbury University has nourished, stands in a strong line of the university’s historians and philosophers.


Sir William Pickering, who attended the Havelock primary school also attended by Lord Rutherford, is known internationally for his work with the Californian Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) which developed the first US satellite Explorer I, Pioneer IV, the Mariner flights to Venus and Mars, the Ranger photographic missions to the moon, and the Surveyor lunar landings.


Dame Phyllis was ordained into the Methodist Church of New Zealand in 1959, the first woman to be ordained in New Zealand, and is a former Chancellor of the University of Canterbury.


Mr Peebles, Professor Munz, and Dame Phyllis will have their degrees conferred at the university’s April graduation ceremony, while Sir William will receive his at a special ceremony in the James Hay Theatre on 18 March.




Don Peebles was born in 1922 in Taneatua, near Whakatane. He studied art in Florence and at the Wellington Technical College School of Art in the mid-1940s, and in the 1950s, at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney. His first solo exhibition was held in 1954 at the Wellington Architectural Centre Gallery.


During 1960-62, on receiving the New Zealand Art Societies Fellowship Award, he visited Europe and exhibited alongside many British artists including Victor Pasmore. In 1966 he was awarded the Hays Prize Merit Award and was an art critic for The Press during 1967-8. He was a council member of the National Art Gallery from 1982-92 and in 2001 was appointed Patron of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. His work is represented in all the leading public art gallery and museum collections in New Zealand.


Don Peebles taught at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1965 and 1986, becoming a reader in fine arts. He was acting head of school in 1985. Much admired and liked as a teacher, his philosophy is summarised by his view on students: ‘They come here experienced, they leave (I hope) as beginners’. In 1999 Don Peebles was awarded the ONZM for his services to New Zealand art.


Born and bred in Germany, Professor Munz came to Canterbury as a young man at the outbreak of WWII. He graduated with an MA in 1944 and in 1945 went to Cambridge where he took his Doctorate in a study of the Anglican Divine, Richard Hooker, before returning to the New Zealand that had “nourished him” to teach for a lifetime at Victoria University of Wellington.


At Canterbury University College Munz was a remarkable student, early on being challenged by the great Karl Popper to defend his first publication, an essay entitled In Defence of Plato.


Professor Munz is notable for the extraordinary power and breadth of his writing. Twelve major books cover the history of modern political thought, medieval history, the nature of religious belief, myth, the philosophy of history and evolutionary epistemology.


In a multitude of articles, reviews , translations, and letters, he has touched on a wide variety of topics: Ecclesiastical Polity 1952, The Problems of Religious Knowledge in 1959, Frederick Barbarossa in 1969, Where the Golden Bough Breaks 1972, The Shapes of Time 1977, Our Knowledge of the Growth of Knowledge 1985, and Philosophical Darwinism 1993.


The Honorary Doctorate will honour Professor Munz as an eminent teaching historian and an eminently persuasive philosopher who, with intense intellectual curiosity, has spent a lifetime in the pursuit of knowledge.

William Pickering was born in Mount Victoria, Wellington, in 1910. In 1923 he went to Wellington College where his ability to marry practical and theoretical science was encouraged.


He enrolled for the 1928 year of study at Canterbury College before being encouraged to enrol at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He completed a Bachelor degree in electrical engineering in 1932, his Masters in 1933 and a PhD in Physics in 1936, the same year he joined the Caltech faculty, and in 1946 he became a professor of electrical engineering there.


In 1944 Sir William organised the electronics efforts at JPL to support guided missile research and development, becoming project manager for Corporal, the first operational missile JPL developed. From 1954 to 1976 he was director of JPL, which developed the first US satellite (Explorer I), the first successful US circumlunar space probe (Pioneer IV), the Mariner flights to Venus and Mars in the early to mid-1960s, the Ranger photographic missions to the moon in 1964-65, and the Surveyor lunar landings of 1966-67.


Sir William retired from JPL in 1976 to take up a two year teaching post in Saudi Arabia. On returning to the United States (with the intention of working on a commercial venture into solar energy) he became a director of a company that manufactured processed woodchips.


Although he has been a US citizen since 1941, Sir William has kept close ties with New Zealand, and in 1976 received an honorary knighthood from the Queen. In 1975 he was awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science by President Gerald R Ford, in 1993 he was awarded the inaugural François-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Prize for his contribution to space science, and in 1994, the Japan Prize by His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.


Dame Phyllis Guthardt was a member of the University of Canterbury Council from 1981 until 2002, holding the post of Pro Chancellor from 1992 until 1998 and Chancellor from 1999 to 2002.


After studying at Christchurch Teachers’ College, Dame Phyllis taught in Nelson and Christchurch before studying for the Diploma at Trinity Theological College and graduated BA (Senior Scholar, English) at the University of Auckland. She went on to gain an MA with First Class Honours at the University of Canterbury in 1959. She tutored in Religious Education at Homerton College, Cambridge, and was awarded a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 1963.


Following her ordination Dame Phyllis was subsequently a Methodist Minister in Hamilton, Chaplain to Waikato Hospital, a member of the Council of the University of Waikato, tutor in English, Lecturer in Religious Studies and Ecumenical Chaplain at that University. She was Minister of Knox Presbyterian Church, Christchurch, during 1976-84 and Superintendent Minister of the Riccarton Methodist Parish in 1984-89 before retiring at the end of 1989.


For more than 30 years Dame Phyllis was a regular broadcaster on National Radio on religious and current affairs and for five years was a member of the Religious Advisory Committee of Radio New Zealand. She has been a member of the Academic Committee of the Ecumenical Institute of Distance Theological Studies since 1993 and was President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand in 1986.


Dame Phyllis was awarded the degree of Honorary Doctor at the University of Waikato in 1986 and became a Dame Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1993. She was for five years President of the World Methodist Council, and is a former member of the Working Committee on Women, Church and Society of the World Council of Churches (Geneva), a former tutor in Biblical Studies, Bossey Ecumenical Institute, Geneva, and a former member of the Theological Commission of the Christian Conference of Asia (Hong Kong).


In 1999 she was made a Foundation member of the Honourable Order of Jerusalem of the World Methodist Council. She has also published in various national and international theological journals.