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Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient 2021 - Dr Norman Fitzgerald

Dr Norman Fitzgerald was born in Dunedin in 1930 and attended kindergarten in 1935 and 1936 at Saint Hilda’s Collegiate when the school provided kindergarten facilities for girls and boys.

Norman is the great grandson of William Sanderson Fitzgerald. William Sanderson Fitzgerald was, in 1876, appointed to establish the Otago Normal School and associated training department which was to become the Dunedin Teachers Training College, of which he was Principal. He was the main proponent for the establishment of a residential college for women at Otago University, St Margaret’s College, and was an enthusiast for women’s university education.

Norman is part of a medical family, his grandfather and father were medical practitioners in Otago. Two of Norman’s uncles, two of his aunts and one of his brothers were also all medical practitioners.

A number of Normans’ extended family have been students at Saint Hilda’s Collegiate.

Norman’s mother, Constance Beaumont, after primary school years at Maori Hill School, attended Saint Hilda’s from 1907-1913, and she met and made many lifelong friends there.

Norman’s daughter Mary Fitzgerald attended Saint Hilda’s Collegiate from 1977-1983.

Norman’s nieces, sisters Constance Fitzgerald and Catherine Fitzgerald, both dux students at the school, attended in the 1970s. Helena Fitzgerald and Elisa Fitzgerald, Norman’s brother Beaumont’s grandchildren are recent and current students respectively at the school.

While his time at Saint Hilda’s was brief, Norman has happy memories of his time there. He recalls, “Miss Blackmore was the principal and Miss Mary Ibbotson was in charge of the class I was in, and I was fond of her. I recall having stories read about a girl called “Milly Molly Mandy” and making small chests of drawers out of match boxes stacked together and balls of wool by winding threads around a cardboard centre. I also remember hiding under a laurel hedge in the playground and recall this event today with the scent of laurel. I also remember the kindergarten lunch being rather an ordeal as we lined up in a corridor and were greeted by the smell of food – not always delicious. I particularly disliked the dried pea soup, and, in my memory, this was frequently on the menu”.

After his time at Saint Hilda’s Norman attended two years at John McGlashan College, before leaving Dunedin in 1939-1944 to attend Waihi Preparatory boarding school located near Winchester in Canterbury. From 1945-1947 Norman was a Christ’s College student and boarder in Christchurch, then attended the University of Otago for his tertiary education. He graduated M Sc. Zoology in 1951, MBChB in 1956 and MD Pathology in 1961.

Norman was a partner in the Dunedin private Medical Laboratory practice of Drs Perry and Fitzgerald from 1961, providing community pathology services in Otago. After Dr Derek Perry’s retirement, Norman initiated the growth of the practice, rebranded Southern Community Laboratories. This provided national coverage with a wide range of diagnostic tests in biochemistry, haematology, microbiology, immunology, histopathology and cytopathology. The group is now the largest medical laboratory diagnostic provider in New Zealand . Norman’s son, Dr Peter Fitzgerald, is the Senior Pathologist at Southern Community Laboratories. Norman was a Cancer Society executive member from the 1960s and promoted Cancer Screening methodologies in New Zealand for the early detection and successful treatment of cancer. Norman married Barbara Johnson in 1956. They settled in Dunedin building their professional and family life there. They had four children James, Peter, Robert and Mary. In 1990 Norman’s son James and Norman were co-founders of Foodco Ltd, the franchisor for the Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue brands . At the present time Foodco supports 450 outlets and 350 franchisees internationally. These are coffee and food retail businesses which are located across seven countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. The Foodco head office is in Sydney with a majority of franchisees in Australia but significant numbers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Norman’s son, Robert Fitzgerald, is a senior executive in the Sydney head office.

Norman and Barbara are now retired in Wanaka.

Biography provided by M. Fitzgerald.


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