In his time at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Emeritus Professor Roger Robinson was a Professor of English, Head of Department, Dean, and Assistant Vice-Chancellor. He is also a writer, TV commentator, published author, and an international runner.
Running for England in the 60s and New Zealand in the 70s, Roger represented the Victoria University Athletic Club, winning many Wellington championships. He ran for New Zealand in the World Cross-Country Championship while Head of the Department of English, set a Masters’ record at the Boston Marathon while Dean of Humanities, and won World over-50 championships while researching his best-known work the Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature. Now in his 80s, Roger still competes while also working as an internationally published sportswriter, book author, and speaker, based in New York and Wellington.
A supportive pathway for aspiring runners
The University has a long history of supporting student runners, and the Athletics Club has always provided informal mentoring for students through the experience and expertise of its members of all ages. The long-term vision is to formalise a running hub that will provide a strong supportive pathway enabling talented runners to combine their sporting aspirations with their academic aims.
It is in this spirit that Roger has taken his passion for running and for a supportive educational environment to establish a scholarship for students who run competitively.
“I wanted committed student runners to have the opportunity to complete their university education in New Zealand on terms comparable to overseas sports scholarships. The Covid-19 crisis shows that overseas study may not always be available.
“Balancing sport and academic study is an idea that goes back to ancient Greece. This scholarship, and the larger strategy of creating a running hub, will continue the spirit in which for 35 years I used to set out on lunchtime training sessions from the Recreation Centre, with the informal company of student runners of all academic and athletic levels, as well as assorted academic and administrative staff. Two Deans, a Registrar, and three first-year students is a mix I remember from one winter’s pack run.”
Emeritus Professor Roger Robinson
A scholarship for undergraduate study in any field
This scholarship is open to all students who are enrolled or intending to enrol in an undergraduate degree in any subject at the University, provided they meet the criteria of ‘competitive runner’.
The scholarship was first awarded in 2019 to James Preston, the New Zealand under-20 record holder in the 800m who is also studying for a Bachelor of Building Science, with a double major in Project Management and Sustainable Engineering Systems.
“Being able to train at a high level and complete my studies are the two important focuses in my life, and for both, having a minimal compromise approach is key. The prospect of a running hub based at Victoria is exciting, and as far I know it would be the only one in New Zealand, giving the opportunity to train in a strong running community, as well as studying at a leading university in my chosen field.”
James Preston, recipient of the Roger Robinson Scholarship for study in 2020
Sports scholarships have a huge impact in helping talented students, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds, to achieve their academic and sporting goals. The demands of study for a degree and training for a sport are so great today that it is impossible to sustain a third major pressure on time and energy, like paid employment, to ensure they can reach their goals. This is where a scholarship can make the difference.