Alumni former staff named in Queen's Birthday Honours

15 June 2021 | Corporate News

Several Lincoln University alumni and others with campus connections received recognition for their achievements in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Alumna Fiona Mary Gower was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to rural women and governance. Fiona completed a Lincoln University Certificate in Wool in 1988, followed by a Diploma in Wool Technology in 1989, and was a Kellogg Rural Leadership Scholar in 2009.

As president of Rural Women NZ (RWNZ) from 2016 to 2020, she represented the organisation at the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York in 2018, focusing on rural women and girls.

Relationships she developed with government departments and ministries, external and internal stakeholders, and other organisations, ensure that RWNZ retains a strong voice as an empowering force that encourages members to turn their talents to leadership roles in their communities.

Alumnus John Ombler was made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for his work in public services. He completed a Lincoln University Diploma in Parks and Recreation in 1984.

John began his career as a parks assistant, then worked as a ranger in national parks around the country before becoming a senior manager at the Department of Conservation. He then moved to a role in the former State Services Commission (now called the Public Service Commission).

Following his retirement in 2013, he twice led Public Service agencies in response to significant crises. He reprised his role as Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority from 2014 to 2016.

Then in 2020, he became all-of-Government controller for the response to Covid-19.

Former staff member Mairehe Louise Marie Tankersley was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to prisoners’ welfare and Māori. Mairehe joined the staff at Lincoln in 1989 as Administrative Assistant in the Centre for Maori Studies and Research and was later Associate Director of the Centre.

She is chair of the Te Rūnaka ki Ōtautahi o Kāi Tahu Trust and has been a kaiwhakamana and lead facilitator of the Tikanga Māori programme at Christchurch Women’s Prison for 14 years. The programme is designed to build better outcomes for wāhine prisoners.  

Alumnus Bruce Wills was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit for services to agriculture and the environment. Bruce graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Agriculture) in 1983 and completed the Kellogg Rural Leadership Scholarship Programme in 2006.

He was President of Federated Farmers from 2011 to 2014 and is director of Ravensdown and a director of Horticulture NZ, and directs two of New Zealand’s National Science Challenges (Our Land and Water and Resilience to Nature’s Challenges). He has represented New Zealand on international farming and trade forums as a board member of the World Farming Organisation.

Professor Carolyn Burns was made a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to ecological research. Dame Carolyn is the daughter of the late Sir Malcolm and Lady Ruth Burns; her father was Principal of Lincoln College, 1952-1974.

A pioneer in the field of lake ecology, particularly the study of zooplankton, her research contributed significantly to the understanding of lake health and lake food webs and earned many awards, including a New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal and the title of CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 1985.

PHOTO: Clockwise from top left – Fiona Gower (photo courtesy of, Mairehe Louise Tankersley (photo courtesy of, Bruce Wills (photo courtesy of, and John Ombler (photo courtesy of