Active in the military and education fields

Lincoln University Telford division director Jonathan Walmisley finishes at the South Otago...
Lincoln University Telford division director Jonathan Walmisley finishes at the South Otago polytechnic on June 30. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Jonathan Walmisley has been the face of Telford in his role as chief executive, leaving behind a legacy of growth and a wealth of changes.

Telford grew from 280 equivalent full-time students in 2003 to 1200 in 2010 and about 120 of those students study at the Telford campus.

His eight-year term as chief executive - and brief stint as director - ends on June 30, and at age 59, Mr Walmisley is hoping to "semi-retire" to join his family in Wanaka.

A former high-ranking officer in the British military, he came to New Zealand almost 13 years ago and took up the top job at Telford in September 2002.

"I have no regrets having chosen to live in New Zealand - it's a fantastic country and I wouldn't dream of leaving."

Jonathan Christopher Walmisley was born in Greece on November 26, 1951, to Richard and Joan (nee Day) Walmisley.

He grew up in Greece, North Africa and Turkey as the family moved due to his father's role as a director of the British American Tobacco company.

He was educated at St Edward's School in Oxford, finishing in 1970, when he began his military training. He joined the military hoping to follow in the footsteps of one of his father's friends who was a Royal Engineer.

"I respected him [my father's friend] immensely. I decided I wanted to join the Royal Engineers too but it wasn't until I was at school that I realised that meant joining the military." Mr Walmisley also led a 20-man team carrying out disaster relief in El Salvador following the 1986 San Salvador earthquake. He was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for his efforts there.

"It was different working in San Salvador because we were dealing with civil wars in the country. Wherever we went, we had a military escort, non-combat forces guarded by the military in a UK-friendly country."

Upon his return, he took up positions as a commanding officer in 48 Field Squadron, and in 522 Specialist Team in Germany, later working for the UK Ministry of Defence.

He took part in active service tours in Northern Ireland, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Cyprus and "short stints" in Norway and France during his 28 years in the British military.

Mr Walmisley has been a member of Rotary since his arrival in the country, and a keen sailor involved with youth sailing as an instructor.

Mr Walmisley met Dorice, a New Zealander, just outside Antwerp while she was on her OE and he was there on an army exercise. The couple married in December 1990. He landed in Christchurch with Dorice and son Richard at 11am on November 11 1998 - Armistice Day.

"'I arrived in New Zealand in November with a bit of assurance that finding a job would not be difficult - no-one told me New Zealand closed down for Christmas."

He heard about a job through a friend, went to an interview and started as campus manager at the Southern Institute of Technology in Wigram five days later.

Going straight from almost three decades in the military to working in the tertiary education sector was not as big a leap as many would expect, he said.

"What does the military do when there's nothing else to do?

We train," Mr Walmisley said.

"SIT was a very special place. It was new - only a year old - and was staffed with people from the industry.

There was a great feeling of self-belief, where people understood what they were to do and what others did, and did not hesitate to ask questions."

When he left in 2002, the campus had grown to about four times the size, he said.

"Coming to Telford was a little bit different. It was an established farm training institute and was going through a period where there was risk to its survival. It really needed a growth in student numbers."

By 2008, Telford management began to talk about how to assure Telford of its future.

Initially, they thought this would be through building relationships with other polytechnics but it soon became evident that would not be the "be all and end all", Mr Walmisley said.

"By the end of 2009, we had almost agreed that some kind of amalgamation was the best way to survive."

From January this year, Telford became a division of Lincoln University, and its council held its last meeting in April.

At the meeting, chairman David Yardley said his greatest regret was that Telford needed to merge and could not stand alone as a specialist polytechnic in the long term.

Mr Yardley, who had worked with Mr Walmisley since 2003, said he was "sad to see him go".

"But it's part of change, and his contribution has been significant," he said.

Telford had grown from 280 equivalent full-time students in 2003 to 1200 in 2010. About 120 of those students study at the Telford campus.

"It's an indication of the huge measure of the success Jonathan has had during his time at Telford," Mr Yardley said.

When he announced his retirement earlier this year, Mr Walmisley described the merger as another stage in the institute's development, moving from a training provider, to a polytechnic and now a division of a university.

"I think Telford needs to find its new direction with a new director," he said.

And when questioned what advice he would give this new director, Mr Walmisley said:"I was advised to take a good newspaper and maintain an interest in national and international news. It was offered half-seriously, but I guess it is true because whatever else is going on nationally and internationally impacts on Telford.

But Telford is also in a great part of the country - we have the Catlins on our doorstep and there's a good community to get involved with."

As yet, no replacement director has been announced.

Leaving Telford was a sad occasion, but he was excited about starting a new chapter in his life he said.

"There have been rough times like there are in any job. When I came to Telford, we needed to downsize. It was the first time I had to do it and it was emotionally draining for those who were downsized out and for those left behind. We recovered, moved on, and a year later we were growing. I've been fortunate to have good support from members of the Telford council who have mentored me at times. I could not have done it without their support or the support of the staff at Telford.

"I will miss the students. Young people are generally a great bunch of people, fun to be with most of the time. And, of course, they are our future."


Busy life

1951: Born November 26.
1970: Finished at St Edward's School in Oxford.
1970-72: Trained at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
1973-74: Served in Armoured Engineers.
1974-77: Civil engineering (honours) at Royal School of Military Engineering.
1977-80: Served in military engineering and training unit and later in logistic engineering unit.
1981-82: Logistics planner.
1983: Plant management instructor.
1984-85: Postgraduate civil engineering training.
1986: Became a chartered engineer with the Engineering Council of UK.
1986-89: Commanding officer 48 Field Squadron England, 522 Specialist Team Germany,
1990-92: Engineering manager, UK Ministry of Defence.
1992-95: Property director, UK Foreign Office sovereign area Cyprus.
1995-98: Senior planner RAF Strike Command UK Ministry of Defence.
1999-2002: Campus manager Southern Institute of Technology (Wigram).
2002-10: Chief executive officer Telford Rural Polytechnic.
2011: Director Telford division, Lincoln University.



Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter