Liz Viggers: 1929-2016

A Life Story – Elizabeth Viggers, fundraiser extraordinaire, dies, 87

Liz ViggersLiz Viggers was a long-standing member of the NZ Statistical Association from 1962-2010.

An article on Liz appeared in the Dominion Post on 10 Sept, 2016.

Nihal de Silva

Nihal de Silva

On the evening of Saturday the 27th of June Nihal de Silva passed away after a battle with acute myloid leukaemia.

Nihal joined what was then MAF Technology as a biometrician on 4 July 1988, and was initially based at Palmerston North before relocating to the Levin Horticultural Research Centre and commuting daily from Palmerston North.

He had migrated to New Zealand from Sri Lanka where he had completed his BSc at the University of Ceylon in 1975 and Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative Genetics at the University of Peradeniya in 1984. He had previously studied at Massey University where he completed his Masters in Agronomy in 1981, to be followed by a Diploma in Social Sciences in Statistics in 1992.

His early work involved kiwifruit on-orchard crop estimation, where his past research experience in plant sciences and expertise in statistical software were to prove valuable.

Nihal subsequently transferred to HortResearch, Palmerston North at the time the Crown Research Institutes were established in 1992. He later relocated to the Auckland site and became the Biometrics team leader. In this role he mentored a number of young statisticians which continued when HortResearch merged with Crop and Food forming Plant and Food Research. He was always more than happy help and very approachable. One common theme amongst the scientists he interacted was how he made the effort to understand the science behind the data.

In addition to the high regard in which he has been held for his professional abilities, Nihal will be greatly missed for his many fine personal qualities. These very qualities were very much to the fore in recent months as he struggled to continue to give his very best in the job that meant so much to him. The large number of tributes on the PFR internal site is a testament to how valued Nihal was as both a colleague and friend within the institute.

Mark Wohlers and Peter Alspach


Geoff Jowett

Geoff Jowett (Geoffrey Harcourt Jowett)  died peacefully in the presence of members of his family on 18 December, 2015.  He was aged 93.

Geoff was a life member of the Association.  He arrived in New Zealand in 1964 to take up the chair in statistics at the University of Otago, and after several years moved to the Invermay Agricultural Research Centre to work as head of the biometrics section there.  Many Association members will remember him as an inspiring and entertaining lecturer and speaker, a colleague or mentor and a friend.  He will also be remembered for his work in introducing, in conjunction with another (late) life member, H.S. (Stan) Roberts, statistical education into New Zealand schools.

Click here for the NZ Statistician article on Geoff on the occasion being made a life member of the NZSA in 1984.

A Tribute to Brian Hayman

Prof Brian Hayman died age 87 - formerly Professor and Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Massey University

BrianHaymanProfessor Brian Hayman passed away peacefully at Wellington Hospital on 15th August 2014, after a short illness, at age 87.  Brian retired at the end of 1988 as Professor and Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Massey University. He was President of the NZSA in 1969. Click here for an item by Dick Brook about Brian just before Brian retired from Massey.

Brian’s funeral service will be held at Kapiti Coast Funeral Home Chapel, 9-11 Hinemoa Street, Paraparaumu, at 11am on Thursday, 21st August.
His death notice is: http://deaths.dompost.co.nz/obituaries/dominion-post-nz/obituary.aspx?n=brian-ivanhoe-hayman&pid=172120627&fhid=12720

Harold Henderson notes, “Brian was on the enrolment desk in 1971 when I turned up to register for my first year at Massey. He directed me into the statistics/computer science paper, which I had not thought of doing. This chance encounter with Brian set the course for my career in statistics“.

And Jennifer Brown also notes  “My statistics career was also a chance conversation with Brian – he was the Head of Department when I started taking statistics papers out of interest extramurally through Massey (I was in Rotorua at FRI then). He pointed out that with a bit more structure to my programme of study I could aim for a PG Diploma which I did. This eventually led me to enjoying statistics so much that I resigned from my job and studied for a PhD. It was only that chance meeting and the fact he spent time talking with me changed everything. I am so grateful for this.”

A tribute to Brian from Graeme Wake

The founding head of Mathematics and Statistics Department at Massey (PN) died on Friday.  He was the first Professor of Mathematics at Massey, and his position became Professor of Statistics on my appointment as the former in 1986.  He served  25 years in the Headship role. He was followed as Professor of Statistics  by Jeff Hunter. Brian held very strong views on the role of Statistics, which he espoused at every opportunity. Although we often differed on this,  he and I  remained good friends.  His goal of a separate Department happened after he retired when it was created under a Federated School which was the forerunner of IIMS. He was a very efficient Head of Department for all of that time and had his finger on the pulse.  Most importantly he was always available to help colleagues and students.  He was noted as tutoring students on a one-to-one basis very regularly: for example,  He was known to visit extramural students everywhere…one of note was an inmate at Manawatu prison.

A tribute to Brian from Bruce Weir

At the end of my second year as a mathematics undergraduate at the University of Canterbury I was able to spend the summer working as in intern with Brian Hayman in the DSIR  Applied Mathematics Division branch at Lincoln. I had no knowledge of genetics but Brian gave me a small book by H. Kalmus to read, and suggested  a straightforward extension of his work on the algebra of mixed mating systems for me to investigate.  This was my introduction to the field I have worked in ever since, and my first exposure to the satisfaction of research. I had an outstanding researcher as a mentor.

Brian later introduced me to Clark Cockerham at North Carolina State University, who accepted me as a graduate student. With my newly minted PhD  I sought academic positions in New Zealand, and Brian once again came to my support with an offer. My years in Palmerston North, 1970-76, in Brian’s department at Massey had two major effects: I met my wife Beth and we both met the people who are still our friends 45 years later.

Brian was a major figure in statistical genetics, and his generosity in guiding a very junior undergraduate has served as a model I have tried to follow ever since.

Bruce S Weir
Professor and Chair, Department of Biostatistics
University of Washington

Kenneth Jury (ONZM, QCM)

It is with sadness that we report Ken Jury passed away on 8 July 2013.

Ken was a well known and respected statistician who began his career at Ruakura (Hamilton) in 1958.

He was responsible for biometrics and computing at Ruakura from 1969 until 1979, when he became Director of Animal Research, and was also appointed to the Council of the University of Waikato.

Ken was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to the Dairy Industry in 1998.

A full appreciation of Ken’s involvement with statistical and mathematical science in New Zealand appears as the lead article of the June 1996 newsletter of the NZSA.

Remembering Shayle Searle

April 26, 1928 – February 18, 2013









Read Shayle’s Obituary.

Last Modified: Friday, 17th February 2017