Always keen to lend a guiding hand

16 May 2024

Sixty-five years after leaving Christ’s College, Don Mackenzie (6419) is still regularly back on campus in his role as one of our Guides who show visitors our stunning buildings and grounds.

Volunteering is nothing new for Don. He officiated for Athletics Canterbury for 50 years and still helps at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships.

Don is a former New Zealand Athletics champion who held national titles for the then 100 and 220 yards in 1964 and was the 440 yards champion for three years. He later assisted at international athletic events such as the World Games for the Deaf, World Masters Games and Pacific Conference Games, and was Technical Manager at the 1974 and 1990 Commonwealth Games.

He also contributed to the design and construction of the all-weather track in Christchurch for the 1974 Commonwealth Games. He has been involved with administration of athletics for club, centre, national committees, and chairing the Athletics NZ Board. Don is now a Life Member of Athletics NZ.

“Fitness has always been part of my life. When I was at College, I used to enjoy the challenge of getting fit and competing. After I finished running, I took up squash, and got into hiking. I’ve completed all but one of the Great Walks in New Zealand – one of them on Stewart Island with my five-year-old grandson and his father. That was really special.”

Don still keeps in shape with daily stretches, plenty of gardening and fortnightly walks with a group he’s been part of for 17 years. In any spare time, he’s writing a history of four generations from whom he is descended including Sir Thomas Mackenzie, who briefly served as New Zealand’s 18th Prime Minister.

A civil engineer, Don’s first job after graduating from the University of Canterbury was at the then Waimairi District Council (WDC) where he worked for seven years. He’s proud of being part of the team that saw WDC as the first local body in New Zealand to introduce compulsory thermal insulation for housing.

Don subsequently became a lecturer at Lincoln University for 37 years, specialising in agricultural and natural resources engineering.

“I was particularly involved with water projects and others for the insulation of buildings. One of my colleagues and I spent a lot of time researching thermal mass for storing heat energy from the sun.”

While he officially retired aged 65 years, Don later worked as a project contractor for the former Centre of Advanced Engineering and with CERA after the earthquakes, helping assess the structural integrity of damaged buildings.

During this time, as the Vicar’s warden, he was also heavily involved with the Anglican Parish of Fendalton and with other Anglican churches that had various earthquake issues. For six years he chaired the Engineering Heritage Canterbury Chapter of Engineering NZ.

In 2020, his services to athletics and the community were recognised with a New Zealand Order of Merit.

Don is married to Judith; they have four children, including son Tom, an Old Boy who is an environmental inventor and entrepreneur.