Fifty years on the job and not finished yet

Charles Higham celebrates 50 years as a professor at the University of Otago's Department of...
Charles Higham celebrates 50 years as a professor at the University of Otago's Department of Anthropology and Archaeology with a lecture about the history of the department and his research. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
It was just another day at the office for Charles Higham.

The 78-year-old celebrated his 50th anniversary as a professor at the University of Otago's department of anthropology and archaeology yesterday by giving a lecture that reflected on the department and highlights of his research in Southeast Asia.

Despite the fact he has worked at the university for 52 years and is one of its longest serving professors, there was no pomp and circumstance at the lecture.

"I may be the longest serving professor at the university.

"I can't imagine anyone else being stupid enough to stick around for so long."

Following the lecture, Prof Higham rushed off to attend a meeting, and then returned home to continue writing a report about his latest excavations, which would soon be published in Bangkok.

Prof Higham said he came to New Zealand after completing his doctorate at Cambridge University in England in 1966 when he was offered a lectureship at the University of Otago.

Photo: Peter McIntosh
Photo: Peter McIntosh
He said a highlight was in October 1968, when he was appointed the first professor of pre-history in Australasia.

"It made me the head of the department and gave me the opportunity to develop the department along the lines that I thought most appropriate.

"I spent 10 years giving the department its structure and contributed quite a lot towards the internal planning of our three floors in the Richardson building. That was quite a major effort."

After 10 years as head of the department, he relinquished the position to focus on research.

"Since then, I've been working consistently in Southeast Asia on a series of research programmes, each one of which has taken an issue or problem and tried to solve it through excavation."

Prof Higham said he continued to be employed by the university through a Marsden research grant.

"Since I don't know the meaning of the word retirement, I shall continue with my work, albeit without a salary, because I enjoy it."

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