A standing ovation followed the naming of Sir Paul Callaghan last night as the Supreme Winner of the 2012 World Class New Zealand Awards.
Callaghan, who died in March after a long battle with cancer, was conferred the award posthumously, and a video message recorded before his death was played at the ceremony followed by a brief speech by his widow.
Callaghan, the founding director of the Wellington-based MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, was a leading physicist whose work put New Zealand on the international stage in the fields of nanotechnology and magnetic resonance. He demonstrated exceptional leadership in the field as a scientist and science administrator, and was at the forefront of connecting science and business.
He was also a founder of Magritek, the 2011 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year and 2007 recipient of the Sir Peter Blake Medal.
“Sir Paul’s exceptional talents were an asset for New Zealand and his consistent commitment to connecting science with business to widen the country’s economic growth was truly admirable," said judge and Kea Global board member John Stace.
A new category this year was the Iconic New Zealander of the Year Award, presented to Kiri Te Kanawa.
The opera singer had conquered the hearts of people worldwide with her voice, according to Stace.
“Kiri is undoubtedly an iconic New Zealander who makes us all feel proud with her magnificent success and achievements that cross international boundaries.”
The previously announced winners of the other seven World Class Awards were also presented with their tall poppy statuettes – designed by Weta's Sir Richard Taylor – on Thursday night.
Now in their ninth year, the World Class New Zealand Awards evaluate winners against five main criteria, with a focus on promoting New Zealand internationally, building global connections and facilitating the exchange of information, knowledge and skills from and about the country.
The annual awards are an NZTE initiative delivered by Kea New Zealand, the global expat network.
Sir Graeme Douglas, Douglas Pharmaceuticals - Life sciences
Ian Taylor, Animation Research Limited - Creative
Peter S Watson, The Dwight Group - Investment and Business
Dr David Kirk, Hoyts Theatre/TradeMe Group - Information and Communications Technology
Jeremy Moon, Icebreaker - Manufacturing, Design and Innovation
Tony Falkenstein, Red Eagle Corporation - New Thinking
Professor Malcolm Grant, president and provost University College London - Science, Technology and Academia