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University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis was presented the LH Martin Institute Award for Excellence in Leadership last week.
Mr Willis said he was just doing his job, but the gong for tertiary education management in Australia, New Zealand or Papua New Guinea was awarded to him for his ongoing leadership at the university, and his work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said Mr Willis was "simply a remarkable leader".
Within a week of lockdown, students began learning online, staff were working remotely, and all essential services were operating across all five campuses, Prof Hayne said.
The institution was already well on the way to recovery, mostly due to his leadership, she said.
He started as chief operating officer in 2016.