John Gallaher 1972-1975
John Gallaher’s roles on the Dunedin Diocesan Board of Education and the New Zealand Catholic Education Board, enable him to play a part in ensuring that today’s children have access to the same quality of Catholic education that he enjoyed. John sees these roles as “closing the circle” and “giving something back”.
He joined St Peter’s College in 1972 in the 4th form, from Invercargill’s Marist High School. He didn’t really know what to expect as a boarder and spent the first year settling in and getting used to the new way of life away from home.
At the time, St Peter’s offered a different way of doing things in secondary education. The regime fostered European influenced, forward thinking teaching methods and had high expectations of its pupils.
Now, looking back, John says that he was fortunate to have been taught by the Rosminians and Mercy Sisters with their emphasis on excellence and their insistence that you give one hundred per cent, while they instilled in you the confidence to do so. Whilst their regime may have been more liberal than was usual at the time, pupils were left in no doubt that there would be repercussions if privileges were abused.
In this environment, John flourished and felt able to have a go at many new challenges, like singing solo in the Eisteddfod and becoming involved in sports that were new to him. He took up basketball and enjoyed it so much that he began coaching year one and two pupils in the school. As their coach, he took real pride in the youngsters’ efforts, especially when he got them involved in inter-school matches. This early involvement has led to a lifelong association with basketball in New Zealand. As well as playing the game for 40 years, John went on to become involved in and then organise the sport in Otago, then became President and Chair of New Zealand Basketball and now sits on the sport’s global Finance Board in Geneva.
While still at school, John had the idea that he would like to go on and train as an architect, but after being away from home as a boarder at St Paul’s Without the Walls, he decided to take a year out after school and live at home in Invercargill, rather than going away to start training immediately. While at home he took a job with ANZ and this led to him studying some units in commerce. He found that he rather enjoyed it and went on to complete a degree at Otago University in Accounting and Information Systems. He spent time working in the areas of accounting, computing and finance including Marac Finance.
By 1985, now married, and with a growing interest in the stock market, he moved to Dunedin and began his career with Forsyth Barr. New opportunities within the firm, as it grew into a national organization, have presented him with regular challenges over the years and now thirty years on he can look back and say that he has enjoyed every day.
John holds an impressive list of directorships and chairmanships in a diverse range of commercial and non-profit organisations. When asked “how he keeps so many balls in the air?” he says that he focusses on what’s important and doesn’t try to be everything to everyone. Once he had completed his final school year and began working full time and studying part time, he learned to be well organised, get the best out of others and focus on outcomes. Although his particular interests lie in the field of education, he is involved with such organisations as City Forests, the Mercy Hospital, the Otago Rescue Helicopter Trust, and the Young Enterprise Trust. With the latter he works as a mentor and introduces young people to the challenges and rewards of a career in finance. His own career has been positive for family life, thanks to the ongoing support of his wife Marelda. The eldest of their four children, Matthew, has followed dad into a career in finance and marketing, whilst daughter Samara plays professional basketball in Melbourne and is a NZ Tall Fern. Younger son Tom is training to be a teacher and daughter Hanna is in her final year at Kavanagh College.
Becoming Chair of the Tui Motu Foundation, John had the opportunity of again “closing the circle” by working with Fr. Michael Hill and Fr.John Buckner, his old teachers from St Peter’s College to set up Tui Motu, the Catholic magazine. As John says “it’s all about giving something back”.