2009 Recipients

Dr Virginia Toy

Dr Virginia Toy, is a lecturer in structural geology at the University of Otago and involved in numerous research projects and community, university and company services. After completing school, a degree, two masters and a PhD, Virginia never anticipated she would be a teacher. “It has given me a new appreciation for the amount of time and energy that my teachers must have put into me in the past. I know that they work really long hours to provide us with the opportunities that we have and I wanted to say thank you for that.”


Dr Renée  Liang

Consultant paediatrician and playwright Renee Liang is a specialist paediatrician with an interest in youth health, especially in the interface between arts and healthy behaviours. She was involved as a core researcher on the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study. The “proud Old Girl of St Cuthbert’s” also holds a Masters in Creative Writing from The University of Auckland and is working on her first novel. Her plays include Lantern, Mask and The Bone Feeder. Mask was the first of her plays to be professionally produced and was performed in the Manawatu Festival of New Arts in 2008.

In 2010 Renee was chosen as one of 12 representatives from NZ to take part in the Emerging Pacific Leaders Forum. The Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue is a regional “meeting of minds” designed to foster the next generation of Pacific leaders. It is organised by Commonwealth Study Conference alumni and is supported by governments and organisations in the region.


Dr Karen Willcox

Dr Karen Willcox, designs future aircraft and at the age of 32 was promoted to Associate Professor of Aeronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology – where she gained her Masters and PhD.
She has worked at NASA Dryden Flight Research Centre, in the middle of the Californian desert, and at Boeing Phantom Works where she assisted with the development of “the blended wing body” – an environmentally friendly futuristic aircraft, yet to be seen flying.

She spoke of the joy she gets from her teaching role and the importance of service to a professional person. “It’s incredibly important, whether it’s serving on committees to advise politicians or companies or whether it’s being an editor for a journal…there are just so many places you can serve and be involved in.”