'Atenisi University inducts six fellows in honour of Futa Helu
'Atenisi fellows: Dr David Robie (from left), Dr Ian Campbell, Professor Futa Helu, Dr 'Opeti Taliai, Dr Wendy Cowling, Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele and Dr Ron Crocombe. - Pacific Media Centre.Dr Niko Besnier was also inducted but is not in this picture.
NUKU’ALOFA: Six international academics have been inducted as fellows of Tonga’s ‘Atenisi University, the only leading tertiary institute in the South Pacific independent of both government and religious influence, in a four-day celebration honouring the life and achievements of founder and philosopher Professor Futa Helu.
The event, including a recital, documentary excerpts, testimonial lectures by staff and birthday feasts at the Halaano campus, paid homage to Dr Helu’s 75th birthday and more than four decades of publication, critical thought teaching and intellectual leadership at ‘Atenisi.
The fellowship induction ceremony was attended by the Hon Lupepau’u Tuita, Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele, New Zealand High Commissioner Christine Bogle, Japanese Ambassador Yasuo Takese, faculty members, students and many international guests.
AUT University’s Associate Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre who was awarded his media doctorate in history/politics at the University of the South Pacific, and two other New Zealanders were among the fellows.
Dr Robie also had talks with director Niulala Helu, 'Asena Helu and leading Tongan publisher and broadcaster Kalafi Moala about a planned communication studies major for the university next year. The university is also planning a new Pacific studies major. Other academics inducted were Professor Niko Besnier of the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences; Professor Ian Campbell, head of history at the University of the South Pacific and author of seminal historical works on Tonga; Dr Wendy Cowling, senior lecturer in anthropology at the Waikato University; Professor emeritus Ron Crocombe, of the Cook Islands and founding director of USP’s Institute of Pacific Studies; and Tonga’s Dr ‘Opeti Taliai, of Massey University, who is joining the ‘Atenisi faculty.
Dr Taliai is also a founding member and ongoing contributor to the Tongan Research Association.
Prime Minister Dr Sevele spoke of ‘Atenisi’s contribution to Tongan intellectual life and critical thinking in national and Pacific education.
He also acknowledged Professor Helu’s leadership as a philosopher and historian to education and learning in the Pacific. He praised the academic’s intellectual contribution underpinning the early years of Tonga’s pro-democracy movement. Dr Sevele said differences between ‘Atenisi and the government were an issue of the past and he highlighted a P100,000 grant awarded to ‘Atenisi’s Foundation for Performing Arts.
The festivities included a recital by ‘Atolomake Helu, one of the Pacific’s leading opera singers, and other performers, and a preview of Lose Miller-Helu’s documentary in progress, and The Helu Hat, and other film excerpts on Professor Helu’s life.
Dean Dr Michael Horowitz led staff and colleagues in a series of testimonial lectures and discussions exploring aspects of Professor Helu's philosophy and perspectives and examining the future of the institution.
Futa Helu, who was born in Foa, Ha'apai, studied at Newington College and the University of Sydney in Australia in the disciplines of philosophy, English literature, mathematics and physics between 1953-61.
Upon returning to Tonga, he became a tutor to students who were having trouble keeping up with school; and in 1963 initiated ‘Atenisi Institute, or "Athens", named in honour of the early Greek philosophers and thinkers, notably Socrates.
The institute began as a downtown night school providing education for civil servants. It became a high school in 1964 and the university was added in 1976.
A further publication is expected to mark this week’s festivities amid efforts to revive the university with a new lease of life.
Photos: Top quartet - Dr David Robie, Dr Ian Campbell, Professor Futa Helu and Dr 'Opeti Taliai; Middle: 'Atenisi lecturer Hugh Gribben; Bottom: 'Atenisi students in the Pacific studies room - 'Anaseini Lauaki (from left), 'Ofa Funaki and Paea Lelenga. Rear: Heamasi Vaioleti. - Pacific Media Centre
Post to us! This blog is for stories filed by the Asia-Pacific Journalism course Global Watch postgraduate student team and your responses. Post comment on articles published on the PMC and Pacific Media Watch websites at AUT University, Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand. The views expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not represent the university. PMC director: David Robiewww.pmc.aut.ac.nz