Lincoln University pays respects to the memory of distinguished alumnus Sir Wilson James Whineray who died in Auckland on Monday 22 October aged 77.
Best known throughout New Zealand and internationally as a renowned All Black player and captain, Sir Wilson also had outstanding careers in the business world and with community organisations. The bulk of his business life was with Alex Harvey Industries/Carter Holt Harvey where he rose to be Deputy Managing Director then Chairman of Directors. He was also a board member of many other leading companies and CEO of the Wool Corporation. Community organisations he served included SPARC’s forerunner the Hillary Commission for Sport and Recreation, which he chaired, the Halberg Trust for Children, the Sir Peter Blake Trust, and the Cochlear Implant Trust (Children).
Sir Wilson came to Lincoln University, then Canterbury Agricultural College, in 1953 as a Rural Field Cadet, an elite group the College groomed for government department jobs connected with agriculture. He completed the Intensive Course then the course leading to a Diploma in Valuation and Farm Management, awarded in 1958.
Although born and brought up in Auckland, he came to Lincoln University from Southland where he had been engaged in farm work waiting to take up his Rural Field Cadetship. His father’s background included dairy farming in the Waikato and Wilson turned to the land for his first job after obtaining University Entrance at Auckland Grammar School, where he had been a prefect and vice-captain of the 1st XV. His mother wanted him to return to school but he wanted to “get on with things”.
When awarded the Bledisloe Medal by Lincoln University in 2006 for outstanding contributions advancing New Zealand’s interests, he confessed that he would have gone farming as a career if he had possessed the money! Instead, with his Diploma in Valuation and Farm Management, he went to a position with the State Advances Corporation, then later entered the business world having in the meantime completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
In 1969 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship which took him to Harvard University and an MBA degree. He was encouraged to apply for the Harkness Fellowship by Lincoln College Principal Sir Malcolm Burns, himself a Harkness alumnus, and he always acknowledged Sir Malcolm’s support.
“My time at Harvard University and in the United States of America was life-changing,” he said.
At Lincoln University Wilson captained the 1st Rugby XV in 1957, under coach Harry Garrett, and led his team to winning the Ellesmere Senior Competition. At Lincoln he was both a Rugby and Boxing ‘Blue’ and it was from there that he was selected as an All Black in 1957 while still a student. He was the University’s third student All Black after John Hotop (1952) and John Buxton (1955). In all, as a student, he played for Lincoln College, New Zealand Universities, Ellesmere, Canterbury and New Zealand.
In later years Wilson would tell of travelling to games in the back of the College’s student truck - covered but with a wooden seat - and of quick after-match socialising before rushing back to the College for dinner by 6.00pm! He said he was always “hugely grateful” for his years playing rugby for Lincoln, Ellesmere and Canterbury.
Wilson Whineray was knighted in 1998 for his services to sport and business management. He is survived by wife Lady Elisabeth, two daughters and a son.
Here's a pic from our archives, Wilson Whinerary is back row, second from the right.