Pat Mark and her husband Alan have been recognised many times for their work helping preserve the natural beauty of the South Island, showing a determination that has flowed over to other parts of their lives.
Lady Patricia (or Pat as she prefers), has had a lifetime full of public service and working environmental causes, alongside many family adventures. Her love of her hometown Dunedin remains very strong.
Pat recently took up residence in the care centre at Yvette Williams and treasures the visits from her husband Alan, who lives nearby in a retirement townhouse that they originally chose together.
Pat, who suffered a couple of falls and a spell in hospital, says she is very comfortable in Yvette Williams and enjoys visits from her four children Jenny, Stephen, Alastair and Bridget. Bridget still lives in Dunedin and is a great support for both parents.
Pat and Alan are happy to talk about their lives that have stretched together since they met in 1950 at the University of Otago, where they shared classes in botany and zoology. Pat majored in geography.
She was brought up in a working-class family in Caversham, enjoying her schooling at Otago Girls’, and Alan, similarly, was raised in a family living in Kaikorai Valley.
Their connection grew and soon enough romance blossomed. In the mid-1950s the couple were engaged, but with Alan (awarded a Fullbright travel grant and study scholarship) then travelling to Duke University in North Carolina.
Pat had a library job with the DSIR botany division in Christchurch but soon enough she joined Alan in North America and remembers being a dedicated typist for his thesis work. She enjoyed travelling the eastern and southern states via Greyhound bus, before the couple were married in a ceremony (away from family) on Roan Mountain, western North Carolina in the Southern Appalachians in 1957.
With a job offer for Alan with the Otago Catchment Board the couple returned to Dunedin, where they eventually moved into a home in Wakari Road, Helensburgh. Pat was soon bringing up the family and also worked at the University of Otago medical library.
From the mid-1960s she was appointed by Duncan MacIntyre, part of a National Government, to be a member of the Mount Aspiring National Park board, soon after the park was established. “It was a time when we were asking that women take up positions (of influence within New Zealand institutions),” she says of winning the role.
Later she served on the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust (with both Pat and Alan helping establish Otago Peninsula and physical habitats restoration for the penguins). She was also a long-standing member of the Otago Branch of the Federation of Graduate Women.
She was awarded a QSO for services to the community in 2000 and officially is know as Patricia, Lady Mark, though she prefers just Pat, while Alan is a Sir, knighted for his contributions to science-based conservation.
Another role was with the Dunedin Public Hospital Board. She laughs when she says she and Alan were working in different parts of the political spectrum, particularly given her hospital board service. They remain good friends despite sometimes being “on opposing political parties”, she says.
The couple in 1980 built a holiday home in Manapouri, and both were connected with the ‘Save Manapouri’ campaign to stop the lake being raised as part of the construction of the Manapouri Power Project.
In recent times, the Marks have donated $150,000 to the University of Otago’s Ecology Fund and $100,000 to Orokonui Ecosanctuary, located north of Dunedin. Asked why, Pat simply states: “We saw the need.”
Pat and Alan say the Yvette Williams team have been “very good” in making sure family members and friends have good access to Pat despite precautions make to safeguard against COVID-19. They both say they are very proud of their four children, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren, as they enjoy their lives in Dunedin.
“You couldn’t ask for more than Dunedin has to offer and to have access to a wide range of geographies. The more times you go overseas the more it’s great to come back to Dunedin,” Alan says.