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Robertson scholarships awarded to outstanding future leaders

25 March 2015

Two young New Zealanders have been awarded prestigious Robertson scholarships to study at a top-ranked American university in recognition of their outstanding leadership potential.

The scholarship will cover their study and living costs over four years, as well as support for up to three summer leadership experiences.

Both 18 year-old Harry Elworthy from Devonport, Auckland and Duncan Parsons, also 18, from Havelock North have chosen to study at private Duke University in North Carolina.

Harry, who was Head Boy at Takapuna Grammar School, achieved Distinction in several International Baccalaureate subjects and in 2013 won the NZQA Physics Scholarship.  By age 10, he had read Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ which sparked his interest in Science, especially Physics – his chosen subject at Duke.

He is also a successful road cyclist and has won the ASB Young Sportsperson of the Year Award for Cycling in two consecutive years and represented New Zealand in the Under 17 team.  One of his Physics internal assessments was on the optimisation of cycling pacing over a course of varying aerodynamic conditions.  He plans to continue competitive cycling in the United States.

“I am excited by the opportunity to study at Duke which excels in this field of study. Duke also encourages students to do a general education course so I will enjoy putting myself into different fields and experiencing a wide variety of education.  I can study Arts and Business while also doing a Science degree.

Harry is also excited about the Robertson Summer Camps where all their scholars come together and work on community projects, usually in remote countries.  “The summer programs are a great opportunity to help communities, especial those far removed from what I’m used to, and will get me out of my comfort zone.”

While studying at Hawke’s Bay's Lindisfarne College, Duncan Parsons achieved a 100% grade point average across four Level 3 subjects (Calculus, Chemistry, Physics and Accounting) as a Year 12 Student.  As a year 13 student he gained Outstanding Scholarships in Accounting and Economics and Scholarships in Chemistry, Physics and Agricultural and Horticultural Science.

In addition he was Dux, a Prefect, achieved Distinction in his Trinity Public Speaking Diploma and vice-captained his schools premier football, tennis and squash teams.  He has also founded his own business and spent considerable time volunteering in his community, earning the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

Duncan, who has chosen to study Engineering at Duke, says, "The Robertson Scholarship is an incredible opportunity for me to gain an exceptional education, experience different cultures, develop life skills and make strong connections in the Robertson community.

“The standard of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University is exceptional and I am looking forward to being at the forefront of education and research in this field.  One my favourite aspects of the program is that it is an enabler and an eye-opener. It will expose me to and give me the tools to tackle the biggest problems in the world."

Each year the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program, established in 2000 by American couple Julian and the late Josie Robertson, offers at least one young New Zealander a full scholarship to carry out undergraduate study at either Duke University or the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Mr John Taylor, who chaired the selection panel said, “These scholars highly impressed the Panel for their academic and all round achievements and also their maturity and ability to cogently discuss the key issues and challenges of today.  They have real potential to become a leader in their field and to make a transformative contribution to New Zealand or even globally.”

Universities New Zealand, formerly the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, administers this scholarship in addition to 40 other undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships each year.


  • Julian Robertson is a former American hedge fund manager and philanthropist.  He maintains an active interest in New Zealand, where he continues to spend some of his time.
  • He was made an Honorary Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business and philanthropy in the 2009 New Year’s Honours list.
  • The scholarship is open to year 13 secondary school students who have attended secondary school in New Zealand and are New Zealand citizens or have permanent resident status.
  • More information about this and other scholarships administered by Universities New Zealand is available at
Last modified: March 25th, 2015