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He kaiako hikuroa kua ngaro ki te pō

Maioha Panapa

St.Stephen’s old boy and principal of Te Aute College for 13 years, Te Aorere Riddell, has died.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Te Aorere Riddell, lovingly known to most as Awi, and renowned St.Stephen’s old boy, teacher and principal of Te Aute College for 13 years, has died. aged 87.

Riddell was of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Scottish descent, and also affiliated to Taranaki, Waikato and the Hawke’s Bay region.

He died surrounded by his whānau at his home in Pt Chevalier, Auckland, early on Wednesday morning.

As a young child raised in the East Coast settlement of Te Puia Springs, Riddell was greatly influenced by his grandmother, Tangimangaone Pewhairangi, who was a strong advocate of education.

“She believed it was a treasure with a beginning and no end,” Riddell said in an interview in 2017 for e-Tangata. “If we wanted to follow it, we should eat it completely, drink it completely. That we should seek its heights, its breadths and its depths.”

This set the pathway Riddell followed in life, starting with a scholarship he received from the Pākehā principal of Te Puia school that paid for his board at Tīpene - St. Stephens Māori Boys College in Bombay.

Riddell studied under teachers such as Hoani Waititi, Koro Dewes, Hori Marsden, Scotty McPherson, Rawhiti Ihaka, Api Mahuika and Sir Tamati Reedy. He became a head prefect and dux and also met his first wife Maringi (Te Aitanga a Mahaki) during his last year at school. She was at Tīpene’s sister school, Queen Vic. The couple married in 1959 and had three children.

Riddell returned to Tīpene as a teacher for 12 years, then became the principal at Te Aute in 1977 with a roll of 250 students.

As the First XV coach, Riddell led Te Aute to its first win of the Moascar Cup in 1979, beating Tīpene 12-9. He later turned down an offer to coach the NZ Secondary School rugby team for a UK tour in 1984. The job went to Graham Henry and effectively launched the former All Black’s coaching career.

Riddell’s contribution to Māori education included coordinating the establishment of 56 kura kaupapa Māori over seven years as a senior official with the Ministry of Education.

Māori programmes he helped design are still in use today.

Former students often dropped by to see ‘The Chief’ - another nickname he was known by - when he retired, a mark of the legacy set by his grandmother all those years ago.

“Teachers who give of themselves outside of normal school time to give extra tuition, or to be involved in extra curricula activities, are those who are most respected by students and whose students will respond to the demands placed upon them,” he once said.

Awi Riddell passed away peacefully at his home in Auckland, which he shared with his second wife, Lily Lee.

Riddell was taken to Te Māhurehure Marae, Pt Chevalier on Thursday morning where he will stay one night before being returned to Iritekura Marae in Waipiro Bay on Friday morning. A final service and nehu will be held on Sunday.

Hero image: The late Te Aorere Riddell. Photo / Supplied

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