EIT Hawke’s Bay business studies lecturer Tom Johnson is combining a passion for rugby with a love of learning to do his doctoral degree.
Rated one of New Zealand’s foremost rugby loose forwards of the 1960s, Tom couldn’t be happier working on a PhD thesis that looks at All Black culture over the last 60 years.
“For me, it’s a very stimulating experience,” enthuses the 70-year-old. “A good rugby mate says I’m one of the oldest schoolboys in New Zealand, but I find it an intellectual challenge. I really enjoy learning and don’t want to stop.”
Tom played representative rugby for Counties (1957), Waikato (1958), Auckland (1964) and Hawke’s Bay (1959-68) and he has maintained a close involvement with the sport. On the New Zealand Rugby Union board for 12 years, he served on the original World Cup committee that promoted the concept of the international tournament.
He initiated the Golden Oldies sporting movement which has been staging international festivals for thousands of supporters and up to several hundred teams since 1979.
Tom’s thesis divides All Black culture into three eras – the 1950-70s post-war, Depression, post-colonial period when rugby was still an amateur game; 1970-90, which looks at counter culture, the politics of identity, Māori activism and biculturism; and 1990-2010 which considers changing demographics, multiculturism, the impact of Pacific Islanders, the World Cup, professionalism and changing technology.
Tom describes himself as a late starter in academia. After 30 years in corporate life, he decided to study extramurally for an MBA when he was 60. He then went on to do a Master in Management degree.
Born in Napier and keen to return to his home town, he had his eye on a teaching job at EIT even then.
“I always liked teaching,” he says, looking back at on a varied career that began with a job at a school in a small community near Huntly.
So where to once he becomes Dr Johnson? “The next step is a zimmer frame,” laughs Tom.