1972 to 1976
Jill, daughter of Ex-Deputy Principal David (70’s and 80’s) and Joan, is a renowned International Scientist in the Research field. She received all her education in Matamata, firstly at the primary school and then at the intermediate followed by five years at the college where she excelled in all areas, academically, culturally and in hockey.
In her penultimate year, 1975, Jill won the Higginson Anzac Essay Cup and the Morey Cup for Arts subjects. She also won the WJG Sharp book prize for best field report on a New Zealand Topic and 1st= in Geography in 1976.
She was involved in a range of cultural activities including the College Choir 1974-76, participated in school productions including ‘Salad Days’ and ‘Trial by Jury’, gained her Instructor’s Certificate in lifesaving in 1974 and gained the lifesaving Distinction award in 1975. As well Jill trained other students for the Bronze Medallion Award and in hockey won the Pam Collins Cup for most improved player in 1st XI girls’ team in 1976.
Post school Jill attend Massey University and graduated with a Bachelor of Horticulture Science in 1981. At the moment Jill is furthering her studies at Griffith University in Queensland where she is working on her PhD.
She started her working career as a research technician in the DSIR climate labs in Palmerston North. Her intention was to stay for a couple of years to gain work experience, but found she really loved research and has been working for the same company now for over 30 years (although it changed from a government department to a Crown Research Institute, HortResearch, and then changed again to Plant and Food Research).
In 1985 Jill won a Queen Elizabeth II technician study award to work at the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute in the United Kingdom for six months. After returning to New Zealand, she continued her work in Palmerston North where she was appointed to a scientist position in 1991. She moved to the Riwaka Research Centre in 1993, where later she was appointed Liaison Scientist. In 2004 she was appointed to the position of HortResearch’s Business Leader for Europe and was based in Barcelona Spain for four years. In 2008 Jill returned to New Zealand and took up the position of Site Leader and Liaison Scientist at the Clyde Research Centre in Central Otago.
Now studying at Griffith University in Queensland where she is working on her PhD as a remote student, her project focus is on pre-harvest factors that affect postharvest fruit quality in apricots. Concurrently she still works full time as a scientist based at Clyde. Over the years Jill has carried out plant physiology research on a wide range of crops including apples, kiwifruit, feijoas, ornamental plants, zantedeschias, olives, boysenberries, blueberries, apricots, cherries, pine trees, sphagnum moss and other mosses. The work has been incredibly varied and fascinating and she gets enjoyment from working in different teams with interesting people. But the real reward is when the research is being used by the growers and they get to benefit from the work.
Her job has enabled her to travel all over the world, either to carry out research, to attend conferences or to represent New Zealand at international council meetings. She has been an invited speaker at conferences held in New Zealand, USA, Spain, Portugal, France and New Caledonia.
One of the most interesting projects was a consultancy developing mine revegetation techniques using native mosses and lichens at the largest copper and gold mine in the world, in the highlands of West Papua at 4000m above sea level. The team had five or six trips over to the mine to establish and assess the trials. On the first trip we were flown by helicopter up to the equatorial glaciers and dropped off. We made our way back to the mine site whilst examining the natural succession of plants which established as the glacier retreated. It was a once in a lifetime experience and we were paid to do it!
The other great experience was when the whole family went to live in a foreign-speaking country, Spain, for four years. It was quite challenging to learn another language as an adult and sort through all the “red tape” but it was a wonderful opportunity for our sons to experience a different culture and to live in an apartment in the centre of Barcelona. From there we got to do a lot of travelling around Spain and other nearby countries.
One of her greatest achievements was being awarded the Royal Society of NZ Science and Technology Bronze Medal in 1996. Jill has been President of the New Zealand Society for Horticultural Science (1999-2001) and currently serves on the Council of the New Zealand Institute for Agricultural and Horticultural Science. She has been one of the New Zealand representatives on the Council for the International Society for Horticultural Science since 1998, a Trustee on the New Zealand Horticultural Advancement Trust since 2001 and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Berry Research since 2009. Currently she is the Vice-President (Scientific) for the Organising Committee of the International Horticultural Congress to be held in Brisbane in 2014. This event is held every four years and is the “Olympics” of the horticultural science world. Over 2,500 delegates are expected and Jill is in charge of the scientific programme, which will consist of around 30 concurrent symposia, 20 workshops and five plenary sessions, all held over 5 days.
When asked if Matamata College had had an influence on her life, this was her response:
Matamata College has had a huge influence on my life. It set me up with an excellent academic education but also gave me a good “all round” education, showing the importance of sport and cultural activities as well. Particular highlights were trips away, including 4th form camp, Outdoor Pursuits Course, Geography Field Trip to Tongariro and the Hockey 1st XI Inter-Secondary Schools Tournament in Auckland. Many teachers have had a strong influence on me. Mr Parish introduced me to biology, which set me on my pathway to horticultural science research. I particularly remember Mrs Summerville and Mrs Simpkin telling us all how we would have to really work at keeping up physical activity once we left school. I took this as a personal challenge and have been involved in a range of sporting hobbies over the years including caving, tramping, scuba diving and snow skiing. Miss Thompson (now Mrs Parish), my hockey coach at school, was my role model for a young woman who was confident and enthusiastic. I have many friends from school days who I keep in touch with.
Jill has been married for over 27 years to John and they have two wonderful sons, Michael (22) and Paul (19). John has a brilliant sense of humour and does all the cooking in their house. He is a motor mechanic and has been her support during her career, has been the house husband, staying at home when the boys were young and following her around the country and the world. Michael has just completed his Engineering Honours degree from Cardiff University and Paul is currently studying Engineering at Canterbury University.