Recognition for outstanding business alumni

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Key business people, stakeholders and university leaders gathered to celebrate the achievements of three alumni in October at the University of Waikato Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The gala dinner takes place each year to celebrate and honour graduates who have made outstanding contributions to their professions and fields.

ASB CEO Vittoria Shortt, SweeneyVesty chairman Brian Sweeney, and Prolife Foods CEO Andrew Smith were all recipients of the award, alongside former All Black and All Blacks coach Wayne Smith who received his award in a separate ceremony in September.

Shortt, Sweeney and Smith all spoke at events for Hamilton and Tauranga communities in the leadup to the awards dinner, which gave staff, students and members of the public an opportunity to engage with the awardees.

Shortt left the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Management Studies and quickly found her niche in the corporate finance sector, first working with Deloitte and Carter Holt Harvey before moving into banking in Australia.

She returned to New Zealand in 2018 to become CEO of ASB. Shortt is a member of Global Women New Zealand and Chief Executive Women Australia, an organisation representing senior women leaders from corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors working to remove barriers to women’s progression in the financial sector.

Sweeney, BA graduate, is co-founder of international business strategy and communications agency SweeneyVesty. He set up the agency with Jane Vesty in Wellington in 1987 and is now chairman of the company that has its head office in New York with clients all over the world.

He is co-founder of the website NZEDGE.COM, dedicated to strengthening the identity of New Zealanders around the world by celebrating their stories and successes. He is also co-founder of 7 x 7, an ideas and networking forum to spark innovative global change from within New Zealand.

Dr Andrew Smith studied physics at Waikato, graduating with a Master of Science. He was the university’s first Rhodes Scholar, which saw him going to Oxford University to complete a PhD.

He is CEO of Hamilton-based Prolife Foods, known for such brands as Mother Earth, Alison’s Pantry and Donovans Chocolates. On his watch the company has grown from principally a domestic business to an international one, selling into Australia, Asia, the United States and Middle East and becoming one of Waikato’s largest and most successful family-owned business.

Wayne Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours in 1979 when rugby was still an amateur game. He made a very successful transition to coaching at the conclusion of his playing career and peers dubbed him “the professor” for his skill as tactician and outstanding command of defence and counter attack. He joined Graham Henry in the All Blacks coaching team in 2004 and the pair worked together to change the culture of the national side.

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