Senior Chemistry students, on the steps of the Chemistry Building, 1929

Notable graduates


The Chemistry Department at Canterbury College produced many notable chemists, but other graduates' careers were more varied. Two such careers are highlighted here.

Miss A E (Betty) Lorimer gained an MSc in Chemistry from Canterbury College in 1929, and by 1939 she was in charge of the Laboratory of the City Engineer’s Department in Wellington. This followed on from her wide and detailed scientific study of nutrition problems in New Zealand, which she had written widely on for New Zealand periodicals.

During World War II, Lorimer was Deputy Director of the Young Women’s Christian Association War Services, serving from 1941 until 1947 in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, India and East Asia. She subsequently took up the position of Superintendent of Arohata Girls’ Borstal in Wellington, and later became the first Superintendent of Dunedin Prison for Women, in July 1959.

In August 1964, Lorimer sought new challenges when she left Dunedin to work in Japan for the recently formed United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders. Shortly after taking up this position, Lorimer married her old friend Sir John Corbet, the seventh baronet of Acton Reynard, near Shrewsbury in Wiltshire.


Interior view of a laboratory, c.1913


Terence McCombs also graduated in 1929 with an MSc from Canterbury College, having been awarded two prestigious scholarships during his studies. He soon became an Associate of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, and began teaching at both Christchurch Technical College and Seddon Memorial Technical College. His service to education included being first Headmaster at Cashmere High School in 1956.

In 1935 he entered politics, becoming the Member of Parliament for Lyttelton until 1951, a role previously held by his mother and before that his father. During this time, between 1945 and 1947, he held the position of Minister of Education overseeing Scientific and Industrial Research, and it was in this period that the decision was taken for the University of Canterbury to relocate from central Christchurch to the suburb of Ilam.

After his work in politics, McCombs held a number of other significant roles in both secondary and tertiary education, and he was Chancellor of the University of Canterbury from 1968 to 1971. He subsequently served as NZ High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1973-1975. At the end of his tenure as Chancellor he was awarded an OBE, and in 1975 he was knighted.