The Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust’s main purpose is to help others achieve in furthering their education through the provision of financial awards and other assistance. The Trust is named in recognition of Kate Milligan Edger (1857-1935), the first woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in NZ and the second in the British Empire.

The Trust is funded by Academic Dress Hire, a social enterprise whereby all the proceeds are used to fund The KEECT and financial awards.  When you hire from Academic Dress Hire, you are supporting education in the community.

The Trustees

Emeritus Professor Dame Charmian O’Connor – Founding Trustee


Dame Charmian was instrumental in establishing The KEECT in 2005 serving as Chair from 2005 – 2013, and then as Chair of the Awards Committee and a Trustee up until her recent retirement in October 2021.   The Trust grew out of the Auckland Branch of the New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women, who started assisting with regalia for graduations over 40 years ago.  Academic Dress Hire was established as a social enterprise under the Trust, ensuring the continuation of funding for the KEECT Awards Programme.

Dame Charmian has had a long and illustrious academic career including over 55 years as either a student or member of staff of the Chemistry Department at the University of Auckland and has over 300 publications in refereed international journals.  She was appointed Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Staff Development and Equal Employment Opportunities 1987-1998 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor 1994.  She was a Council Member of MIT for 13 years and of Unitec for 10 years.  She has also served on many national committees, including The Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and was Chair of the Science Sub-Committee for UNESCO.

She is passionate about providing opportunities for women to undertake tertiary education, whether it be in assisting mature women to undertake study in order to return to a profession or to take up work in the community, or in encouraging young women to enter University or a Polytech and to extend their studies so as to reach their potential in creative activities or research.

Read more about Dame Charmian here: 

Stephanie Harris (Chair)

Joint Managing Partner
Glaister Ennor 

Stephanie has been a KEECT Trustee since 2007 and in the role of Chair since 2013.   As joint managing partner at Glaister Ennor, she acts for a number of high profile businesses and attends to their day to day business requirements, in particular,  as they relate to terms and conditions of supply, security interests, general structuring and finance.

“I aim to deliver excellence to my clients in terms of my legal technical skills and to provide strategic problem solving solutions together with a clear and detailed understanding of what is the best client outcome.”

Stephanie acts for investors and developers with commercial property portfolios in both the private and public sectors. With over 20 years of experience, she has invaluable expertise in undertaking large and complex property transactions and developments.

Margaret Crannigan Allen

Manager, Scholarships and Graduations
The University of Auckland

Margaret has been with the Trust since 2009 alongside her role as Manager of Scholarships and Graduations at the University of Auckland.   On an annual basis, the university administers more than $40M of scholarships to its students.  With the use of scholarships as a recruitment tool, the office has an important strategic role at the University.

Margaret sees students from their arrival at University from school, right up to their graduation – at undergraduate and post-graduate level.  One of the most enjoyable parts of Margaret’s role, she feels, is helping students to complete their education with financial support – and reading the success stories as they graduate.

Margaret graduated with an MBA with specialisations in Corporate Governance and Negotiation, both of which have helped in her role as a trust member.

Sonia Pechner

Business Development Manager, Wellbeing
Skills Consulting Group

Sonia has been a KEECT trustee since 2012, driven by her passion for the higher education sector.  In her current role as Business Development Manager, she works across the wellbeing and consulting teams, identifying solutions and programmes that respond to market need, embedding strong partnerships with existing customers and leading growth strategies to expand the client base.  She has been instrumental in developing new client relationships across a range of sectors including: higher education; construction; shipping and logistics; manufacturing; finance; and the public sector.

With her background in leading and growing international business, and her nearly 10 years Board experience, she is currently contributing to the development of new governance programmes within the Skills Consulting Group, including a targeted course for Māori leadership and an Applied Directorship Programme.

Jill Smith (grandaughter of Kate Edger)

Jill has been a founding member of the Trust alongside Dame Charmian since its inception in 2005.  She is the granddaughter of our namesake Kate Edger, and is proud to be connected with the Trust in her grandmother’s name – which works to carry on her ideals to further the higher education of women.

Jill attended Auckland Girls’ Grammar School and gained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Auckland University College.  Jill then trained as a singer and was given the soprano role in the inaugural production of NZ Opera’s The Medium which toured and played in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin Festivals with the NZSO.  Jill then left for England, married and became a teacher.

A move to Canada followed where Jill studied at The Toronto Conservatoire before returning to New Zealand with three small children.  She then spent 15 years teaching English and assisting students with learning difficulties.

Hilary Lewis

Hilary is now in her second tenure as a Trustee having joined the board in 2018.  She attended Rangitoto College before heading to the University of Auckland to do a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting).  Hilary subsequently followed that up with a Master of Business Administration and Master of Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship, both also at University of  Auckland.

Her strength and experience is in leading programmes of change, technology, innovation and business process improvement in large, medium, entrepreneurial and social enterprises.  Success has come from clarity of vision, strong commercial imperative, attention to detail, and an ability to communicate to and engage all involved.  This is supported by a strong finance, IT, commercial, strategic and executive background.

Hilary is passionate about a number of issues facing women today, having been involved of Breast Cancer Cure (funding research to find a cure for breast cancer) for 12 years, and Shine (focused on preventing domestic violence) and sees education as being a key driver of greater diversity and equality in our community.

Professor Linda Bryder

MA (1st Class Hons) (Auck) DPhil (Oxon) FRSNZ FNZAH

Linda is the newest Trustee, coming on board in early 2021.  She has taught in the Department of History, University of Auckland, since 1988 and has been Professor of History since 2005.  Originally completing her MA (1st Class Hons) at the University of Auckland in 1980, Linda was awarded her DPhil at the University of Oxford in 1985, where she held a Research Fellowship and subsequently a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Queen’s College Oxford. She maintains her links with Britain; since 2007 she has been an Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Since joining the academic staff of the University of Auckland in 1988, Linda has served on many University and Faculty Committees, including Research, Staffing and Library Committees.

She has been Head of Department, and has served as Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Arts. She has been awarded a University Research Excellence Award and a Teaching Excellence Award. The latter was based on her successful record of mentoring and supervising graduate students, particularly at PhD level. She has also mentored in the University’s  Women in Leadership programme. She currently serves on the Auckland Libraries Heritage Trust, and is co-editor of the New Zealand Journal of History.