John Holdsworth’s influence improved quality of lives
John Holdsworth ONZM didn’t say much about what he did for people, he just did it. His influence vastly improved the quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities.
John Holdsworth died on 15 August in his garden on the family’s farm in central Hawke’s Bay, aged 78.
IHC Group Chair Tony Shaw and IHC Group Chief Executive Ralph Jones paid tribute to John for the major role he played in shaping the organisation.
In the early 1990s John, Chair of IT services company Datacom, was brought in as Chair of IHC’s Finance and Audit Committee. Then, as Chair of the Properties Advisory Board, he helped to rethink the way IHC managed its properties.
John served on the IHC Executive Committee from 1995, and as a member of the IHC Board of Governance from 1998 and for the following eight years. He served as New Zealand Vice President from 1995 until 2002. In 2007 he was awarded IHC New Zealand Life Membership.
Although a private man, he received a very public acknowledgement in 2011 when he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to business and the community.
“He was really instrumental in a much more focused approach to managing all our various systems of revenue,” says Jan Dowland, who was IHC Chief Executive from 1997 to 2001.
“He set ambitious targets,” she says. “While he was tough, he was realistic and supportive. He didn’t just care about the money, he cared about the services as well.”
Jan says he saw very clearly that IHC properties were a significant asset. “He believed because of the scale of the business it needed to be professionally managed. I think he probably contemplated way back then where we were going. He was very clear about what needed to happen. He was persistent, but he didn’t think it needed to happen overnight. The organisation has been really, really lucky to have someone of his experience, his calibre and ability to be an advisor.”
She says she has very fond memories of him as someone who enjoyed all the social activities and other events associated with IHC. “He loved being with us and we always enjoyed his company.”
John was active at the grass-roots level too, joining the Wellington branch committee, which he chaired from 1994–1999. His involvement with IHC was shared by his wife Merrill and by their son Michael, who works in the IHC Library. The Holdsworth Charitable Trust has sponsored the IHC Art Awards since 2014.
John was behind the first IHC Computer-Assisted Learning Centre in 2002. The Holdsworth Charitable Trust funded the computer equipment for the centres at Park Road and the Christie Centre in the Wellington area.
The Holdsworths have also provided a lot of support to the IHC Library, including a major project to upgrade videos to DVD, and to purchase resources and publicise library services.
John is survived by Merrill and their three sons, Simon, Michael and Mark.
Above: John and Merrill Holdsworth at the IHC Art Awards 2018 exhibition launch at Arts on High in Lower Hutt.