Howick and Pakuranga Times
Botany and Ormiston Times : Howick and Botany Times Thursday January 22 2015
6 — Howick and Botany Times, Thursday, January 22, 2015 www.times.co.nz By Daniel Silverton ROWING is often called the ulti- mate team sport, and sculler Don Rowlands has stayed true to the crew ethos, resulting in being awarded the country’s pinnacle accolade. He was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours for his serv- ices to business and rowing. The knighthood is the latest of a remarkable number of distinctions Sir Don has earned in his fields of expertise. In 1950, he won a silver medal in the men’s rowing eight at the Com- monwealth Games in Auckland, which was followed by gold in the single sculls at the 1954 Games in Vancouver. Following his successful com- petitive rowing career, he became involved in administration of the sport, rising to prominent national and international positions. At the same time, the engineer by trade was making a name for him- self in the business world, going on to serve in executive roles in three major New Zealand companies. In 1953, he joined the Fisher & Paykel company, which was the start of a 48-year association. “I joined them as an assistant pro- duction engineer, to supervise the building of their plant in Mt Welling- ton,” Sir Don told the Times. “They made me manager of the plant, and I worked my way up from there to chief executive.” It was while he was serving his apprenticeship at Mason Bros Engi- neering that he witnessed the Water- front Strike of 1951. The stand-off instilled his business philosophy. “That taught me a great deal about how stupid management and unions could be. “I thought, ‘if I ever got a manage- ment job, I’d never act like that’. “I always understood unions were necessary and needed to be worked with, not against.” He went on to become a director at Fisher & Paykel, and his reputa- tion for leadership saw him asked to become chair of Mainfreight in 1983, and he remained with the company for 28 years. He has also been a director of Hamilton Jet since 1990. “I’ve been lucky. My whole life I seem to have been surrounded by very special people. “They get me a lot more credit than what I deserve for what we’ve done together, whether it be in rowing or business. “I’m a great believer in a team approach.” He was awarded an MBE in 1973 and a CBE in 1979, and inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame last year. On the water, Sir Don was chair- man of the organising committee for the 1978 World Rowing Champion- ships at Karapiro. For the 2010 event at the same venue, the Don Rowlands Centre, a multi-purpose community facility, was constructed and named in rec- ognition of Sir Don’s contribution to the sport. He was awarded a bronze medal of the Olympic order in 1981 for his input into the rowing at a number of Games. Among the plethora of tributes he has been decorated with, the knight- hood is the most special. “This one tops them all,” he says. “It came as a bit of a surprise. “It was quite emotional. I got a nice letter from the Governor General. “It was rather peculiar because it came right after I got the Order of Australia, which is a bit unique for a Kiwi. It was very nice of them.” Last month, he became one of the few New Zealanders to receive the Australian homage, for his contri- bution to rowing on that side of the Tasman. He represented New Zealand and Australia on the international row- ing federation council for a number of years, and earned the world row- ing award for distinguished service in 2009. Sir Don, 88, is now “happily retired”, and enjoys boating with his wife of more than 50 years, Coralie, with whom he has a son and two grandchildren. The first few days as a knight were spent replying to all his many well- wishers around the country, and try- ing to get used to now being a Sir. “I’m struggling to try and answer emails and letters. We are going to write to people and thank them for their kind notes. That is important, I believe. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. Some of my mates are teasing me, and emphasising the Sir. They are having a bit of fun at my expense.” He still assists with maintaining the course at Karapiro, and is immensely proud of the New Zealand crews’ achievements which have followed in Rowlands and others’ wake. “At the last world champs, six gold medals, two silvers and a bronze – the top nation,” he says. “Us old guys stand back in awe of what the young people and adminis- tration are doing now. “We might have kicked it off, but boy, they certainly picked up the baton and run.” Prominent businessman, rower and sports administrator Don Rowlands received a knighthood in the New Year Honours. Photo supplied Knighthood honour tops them all “I’m a great believer in a team approach.” – Sir Don Rowlands Cancer, and cancer treatment, has many impacts. One that can be very hard to bear is the toll it takes on appearance. At Look Good Feel Better we’ve been supporting women, men and teens with cancer for over 25 years. 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