Saturday night the 23rd of November we celebrated our 7th form students’ final year of education at the Annual Graduation Dinner. Originated in the 1980’s, the tradition made a comeback in 2007. Since then, it’s been a special occasion that serves as the official farewell to departing students and gives Westlake staff and teachers the chance to wish the boys all the best for their futures as Westlakers. Last year’s guest speaker was 2000 Head Boy, Westlaker, Lawyer, Environmental Project Manager, Policy Analyst, Marine Scientist and Commercial Diver, Winston Cowie.
Winston was at Westlake from 1996-2000 where he thrived, working hard, playing rugby and enjoying many academic and sporting successes in what was an established winning tradition at the school. He recalls that he learned “how to win” at Westlake and remembers his third form teacher Mr Vinicombe’s “class of all stars”. He has good memories of Headmaster Mr Dale, who led from the front and Mr Glackin – the legend – through whom he never looked at history the same way again. Then there was Mr Wilson who ran 10km in bare feet on the road and the athletics trips to Nationals and winning U15 and third form rugby Championships. Winston was not only Head Boy in his last year at school, he also captained the 1st XV Rugby team that won the North Harbour Championship and came top eight in New Zealand – at the time the best rugby result in the history of the school. Winston was also captain of the 2000 Dragon Boating crew that beat St Kentigern College in the final of the New Zealand Dragon Boating Championships at Viaduct Harbour in Auckland.
After leaving Westlake Winston went to Otago University where he completed his Law degree and captained the Otago University U21 team to the Dunedin Championship. From Otago University, Winston moved back to Auckland and took up a position with Russell McVeagh in the Resource Management team. During this time, Winston worked on some high profile cases including the litigation surrounding the PakNSave supermarket in Wairau Road.
While working in Auckland, Winston applied to attend Oxford University to complete a Masters course in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy. He was accepted and was awarded a Major Stanley’s Rugby Scholarship to attend the University. He lived in Oxford for a year while working towards completing his Masters thesis on the management of Buccoo Reef Marine Park in Trinidad and Tobago. During his time in the UK Winston played rugby for Oxford, was awarded with an Oxford Blue, and played in the traditional Varsity match against Cambridge at Twickenham. 45,000 people attended the match … unfortunately, Oxford lost the game. Winston and fellow Westlake and Oxford teammate Euan Sadden donated a framed Oxford jersey to Westlake during Jubilee year last year. The jersey is on display in the Sports Pavilion.
After finishing at Oxford, Winston worked in the Middle East and is now based back in Auckland. He is a motivational speaker and the author of New Zealand historical fiction and non-fiction books “A Flame Flickers in the Darkness” and “Greenstone Trail”. He also produces documentaries and never lost his passion for rugby, giving back as a rugby coach.
To the extraordinary group of young men who has crossed the stage to receive their Graduation Certificates and Westlakers ties – and to all other 7th formers who will leave Westlake this year – well done! Challenge yourself on the road ahead and make sure to follow your dreams. Westlake Boys High School and Westlakers wish you all the best for your exciting futures ahead as Westlakers. Virtute experiamur.