Dave Richards, pictured at the University of Otago, has
switched from being a British Army paratrooper to a new
career in dentistry. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Dave Richards, a former member of the British Army's
elite Red Devils parachute display team, will complete a
remarkable journey today, gaining a University of Otago
dentistry degree after overcoming dyslexia.
''I'm absolutely over the moon,'' Mr Richards (32) said.
He will gain a bachelor of dental surgery degree, with
credit, graduating from the university today with more than
280 others, mainly with dentistry and physiotherapy
qualifications, in a 4pm ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall.
He said his first priority was to thank the ''university,
friends and family'' for their strong support while he had
changed his career and while studying at Otago.
He was grateful to the dentistry school for allowing him to
study and ''giving me a chance to change my life''.
He grew up in England, joining the army after leaving school
From 1999, he spent five years in the 1st Battalion Parachute
Regiment, serving as a private in peace-keeping operations in
Northern Ireland and later in combat operations linked to the
invasion of Iraq.
He was also selected for the Red Devils freefall display
team, spending two years travelling the world and completing
nearly 800 skydives.
But in 2004, he decided to leave the army and become a
dentist, starting a demanding nine-year transition.
''Losing friends in Iraq was a deciding point in my career.''
He returned to secondary school in England to complete his A
levels in biology and chemistry, and was later accepted for
study at the Otago University School of Dentistry.
''I had always dreamed of coming to New Zealand, as this was
somewhere that I had always thought would be a fantastic
place to live.''
The transition from soldier to student was ''very, very
difficult'' at first, but later he felt more comfortable in
He hoped his success would show others ''anything is
possible'' if people were determined, and persevered ''with
guidance, support and help from friends and family'', he
He will remain in New Zealand and practise in Rotorua.
Associate Prof Darryl Tong, of the Otago School - who is also
a lieutenant-colonel in the New Zealand Army Reserve Force -
said Mr Richards had worked hard and performed well in his