27 FEB 2009 - Victoria University of Wellington will confer honorary degrees on Sarah Billinghurst, Assistant Manager, Artistic at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Vietnamese university rector Professor Pham Van Nan.
Sarah Billinghurst has worked in opera administration since 1972. For the past 15 years she has been the Assistant Manager, Artistic, of the Metropolitan Opera (the Met) responsible for all artistic aspects of the 32-week season. She has organised the Met tours, the Met Galas, including the recent 125th Anniversary Gala and the anniversary celebrations of major artists such as Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti and the Kirov Opera seasons. Ms Billinghurst was responsible for broadening the audience of the Met radio broadcasts, including the expansion to New Zealand. .
Her position is one of the most influential and powerful in the international arena of operatic management. She has nurtured the careers of numerous internationally acclaimed singers, stage directors, conductors and composers.
Ms Billinghurst graduated from Victoria in 1963 with a degree in political science. Her career in the world of opera started at the San Francisco Opera, where she became the Artistic Administrator.
"The size, complexity, and importance of the Met cannot be underestimated, but as much of the work is literally behind the scenes there is often little public recognition of the role," says Professor Pat Walsh, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University.
"Sarah has worked with, and is respected by, the most distinguished international artists working in opera today and has achieved a high level of international distinction in her chosen field."
Professor Pham Van Nang is currently serving his second term as Rector of the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Professor Nang played a critical role in the development of Victoria's campus in Ho Chi Minh City as a joint venture with the University of Economics.
"Professor Nang has demonstrated an outstanding personal commitment to creating new educational opportunities for students in Vietnam," says Professor Walsh.
"He has created opportunities for Vietnamese students to study a western curriculum in business and economics, and has helped raise standards and improve the qualifications of staff within the Vietnamese university system."
"There are now more than 100 students enrolled in Victoria University programmes in Ho Chi Minh City and plans are underway to expand the range of programmes being offered.
"It is an appropriate time to recognise the key role that Professor Nang has played in developing the programme that is now widely recognised as one of New Zealand's most successful offshore education initiatives and one of the most recognised aspects of New Zealand's relationship with Vietnam."
Sarah Billinghurst will receive an honorary doctorate of music, and Pham Van Nang will receive an honorary doctorate of commerce, at Victoria's May graduation in 2009.
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