Professor’s family links to campus land 


Professor Roseanna Bourke (left) with her aunt, Mary Clifford, and Mary's daughter Rose Mary Lynch under the Massey campus sign bearing their family name – a reminder of their pre-Massey farming connections to the land.



Professor Bourke with her Aunt Mary




When educational psychologist Professor Roseanna Bourke gave her inaugural professorial lecture on learning earlier this month, the event sparked a reminder of her personal links to the University reaching back across generations of her family and its connections to the Manawatū campus.

Professor Bourke only has to look at the street signs on the campus bearing her family name to be reminded of her heritage connections to the Turitea site where her grandfather once farmed. 

The significance of the street sign was highlighted when her 101-year-old aunt Mary Clifford (nee Bourke) attended her recent public lecture. Mary drove with her daughter, Rose Mary Lynch, from Masterton to attend and joined ­Professor Bourke for a family photo on the land she roamed as a girl.

Professor Bourke’s father, Palmerston North general practitioner Dr John Bourke, died when she was 15. She says his legacy to his 12 children was; “a capacity and thirst for learning, and the indelible message that education was important. He grew up on on one of the original Turitea farms on this very Massey land. His sister Mary, my aunt, is now 101 years old. Her proud family recognise in her what lifelong, life-deep and lifewide learning really looks like.” 

Her grandfather farmed on the site until the land was earmarked for the expansion of the Massey Agricultural College in the early 1900s.

“Aunty Mary can still remember swimming in the Turitea stream, raising cows, and climbing trees. With her three brothers, one being my late father John Bourke, she started her learning on this land.”  

In the 1960s she worked at Massey’s Department of Agriculture, Economics and Farm Management.

In her lecture, Professor Bourke paid tribute to her family, in particular her late mother, who she says epitomised the lifelong learner. 

“When I was informed of my promotion to Professor in November last year, the first person I told was my 92-year-old mother,” she told the audience at the lecture.  “Frail and unwell at the time, but having had an intense interest in my career over the years, she was very excited and asked me what I’d call my talk. ‘Who’s afraid of learning?’ seemed like an apt title and my mother’s immediate response was ‘Well I’m not afraid. And I’m still learning’.” Her mother died a month later. 

Professor Bourke, based at the Institute of Education, has spent her career exploring, researching and teaching about the phenomenon of learning. She shared insights into sociocultural and cognitive theories and her personal observations on what learning means in her public lecture.

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