Geoffrey Sylvester Peren
Peren graduated in 1915 and then, with the World War I raging, enlisted in the Canadian Field Artillery. He was eventually posted to the 14th Division at Ypres and served in France for three years. During this time he was awarded the Croix de guerre, with silver star and was mentioned in dispatches.
In 1920 he became a lecturer at the University of Bristol's agricultural and horticultural research station at Long Ashton. Four years later he was appointed to the new chair of agriculture at Victoria University College, New Zealand.
Soon after his arrival in New Zealand he joined in the debate about the need for an agricultural training institution in the North Island. Together with Professor William Riddet, the professor of agriculture at Auckland University College, he weighed up potential sites and the two of them worked closely in setting up the new college. In February 1927 Professor Peren was appointed acting principal of Massey Agricultural College. He was confirmed as principal on 7 July 1927.
Peren's initial years as principal were spent on equipping the College and establishing beneficial contacts with other institutions. From the outset he saw the need of helping farmers through agricultural science and stressed the value on the researching the problems experienced by them. This won him and the College the respect of the farming community in New Zealand.
He ably steered the College through the hardships of the Great Depression and the uncertainty of World War II. After the war the student roll rebounded and by introducing additional courses in horticulture, veterinary science and the like, even more students were drawn to the College.
As a skilled administrator, Peren managed, through his dealings with the College Council, the government and politicians, to introduce new projects and grow the College.
At the time of his retirement at the end of 1958, Massey Agricultural College had a reputation as a respected teaching and research institution – an institution that was well-equipped to transition into a university.
It is interesting to note that Peren anticipated war in the late 1930s. He formed the Manawatu Mounted Rifles, consisting of staff and students of Massey Agricultural College in 1938. During World War II he was in charge of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Group and later, as brigadier, of the 4th New Zealand Division. His military roles continued even after the war.
His love of horticulture meant that Peren played a key role in the landscaping of the College grounds. Much of the beauty of the current grounds of the Manawatū campus is thanks to his foresight.
As a researcher of sheep, Peren played a large role in the development of the Cheviot-Romney cross-breed, which was specifically developed for the North island hill country. This breed was eventually named the Perendale, in his honour.
After his retirement Peren remained active in research and devoted much of his time to the Perendale Sheep Society and the Rhododendron Association, both of which he was a founding member of.
He passed away in Palmerston North in 1980.
Awards and honoursKing George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935.
Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1953.
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1959.Sources
Marsden, Lucy, A pioneering Principal - Massey's Sir Geoffrey Peren, The Manawatu Journal of History, 11, 2015, pp. 27-37.
Peren, Roger, 'Peren, Geoffrey Sylvester', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 7-Jan-2014. URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/4p8/peren-geoffrey-sylvester
ContributorMassey University Archives