Professor Emeritus Margaret Tennant: Civic Award winner 2021

Published on 01 December 2021

2021 Civic Award recipient Margaret Tennant in Te Marae o Hine.

Raised in Feilding, Professor Emeritus Margaret Tennant made Massey University's Turitea Campus her home, specialising in the histories of social policy, New Zealand women, and the non-profit sector. 

A former Dean of Massey University's Graduate Research School, Chair of its Academic Board and a Director of Research for Humanities, Margaret has contributed to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Te Ara: The Electronic Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

During decades as a professional historian and in retirement as a 'born-again local historian', Margaret has championed the accessibility and study of local history, encouraging and advising regional researchers and writers as they explore the histories and heritage of Manawatū.

Margaret has served as minutes secretary for Historic Places Manawatū-Horowhenua from 1992, authoring the Heritage Walk booklet, Women's Places.

In 2003, she was invited to be the inaugural chairperson of the Palmerston North Heritage Trust and continues in that role. Through the trust, in 2005, Margaret initiated the Manawatū Journal of History as a way of increasing community engagement in and awareness of the region's rich history. She's been on its committee since 2015.

She obtained funding for the transcription of oral histories held by Manawatū Heritage and instigated the local historian and local history publication of the year awards, along with the highly sought-after themed annual Heritage Trust calendar. She also promoted this year's Telling Our Stories history symposium.

In another crowning achievement, Margaret initiated, sought funding for, managed, co-edited and contributed to 2020's City at the Centre, the first major history of Palmerston North in 50 years.

Released in time for Palmy's 150th year, City at the Centre will serve as a valuable springboard for further researches and publications.

A member since 2004 of the Professional Historians' Association of New Zealand/Aotearoa, and an executive committee member since 2013, Margaret has edited its publication, Phanzine, since 2016.

Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand – Te Apārangi in 2009, she served on its academy executive and council for six years and has been on its branch committee since 2016.

Margaret has been a long-standing supporter of and contributor to the Te Manawa Museum Society, and a committee member since 2019.

Through her insight, experience, leadership and dedication to making local histories known, Margaret has made an invaluable contribution to Palmy's sense of place.

It's particularly apt that the presentation of a Civic Award to our foremost local historian is made in Palmerston North's sesquicentennial year.