Monday, 9 April 2012

Eulogy (Andy Philpott)


Andrew Pullan was born in 1963. He was dux of Aorere College in Mangere, won a University Scholarship, and completed a BSc at Auckland with first class honours in mathematics. Andrew joined the Engineering Science Department as a PhD student of Ian Collins in 1985. After receiving his doctorate in 1988, he spent a brief period working for Winstones/Fletcher Challenge, before returning to the University as a lecturer in 1989. Andrew then moved quickly up the academic ranks culminating in a personal chair in 2006.

Professor Mike O'Sullivan commented in his eulogy at Andrew's memorial service that Andrew never smoked cigarettes, nor drank alcohol, or coffee, or tea. Despite this virtuous existence, Andrew was an excellent mathematician. He made many mathematical contributions to bioengineering - I will mention one. This was his research on inverse problems - in simple terms, how can one estimate values for the hidden electrical data inside the human body from measurements taken on its surface? This is not only a problem of instrumentation, but involved some deep mathematics involving the estimation of under-determined systems. In Andrew’s own words, “It is impossible to recreate the electrical state of each cell in the heart from surface electrical recordings, no matter how many surface recordings are available…multiple configurations of cellular activity can give rise to the same ECG signals”. The contribution of Andrew and his team was to use highly detailed mathematical models of human anatomy to narrow down the possibilities.

Andrew’s research began with the heart, but in later years focused on the stomach and intestinal tract, winning him a James Cook Fellowship in 2003, and a Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2009 for his pioneering work in this area. It is clear that he was destined for even higher honours, and his death is a great loss for the New Zealand scientific community.

Andrew's inaugural professorial lecture was a tour-de-force. A large monitor displayed electrical body measurements of Andrew himself, obtained in real time as he paced around the lecture hall. I now regret that this lecture was the only one of his that I saw in person, for he had a reputation with our students for being a fantastic teacher, engaging them with entertaining demonstrations, often at his own expense. He regularly appeared in the Engineering School's top 5 lecturer awards, and attracted the brightest graduates as PhD students. Andrew was an enthusiastic and generous PhD supervisor, and his students willingly repaid this generosity by helping him with his legendary house renovations.

Andrew was a hero of our Department, Engineering Science. Although he did most of his research in the Bioengineering Institute, his loyalties were to the Department, and he was a champion of the Engineering Science degree. I never thought to question him about this, but I suspect that one reason was that he could see the opportunity provided by the degree to students who are very clever but, like himself, come from less privileged backgrounds.
As Head of Department from 2008-2010, Andrew committed himself to the task of promoting the Engineering Science degree throughout the country to maximize the potential for all students to benefit from the same opportunity that he had enjoyed. He created "New Zealand's next Engineering Scientist" Modelling Competition, which is carried out each year in over 100 New Zealand secondary schools. It offers scholarships (now called the Pullan Prize) to the winners and serves to attract some of the country's brightest mathematical talents to our programme. Along with his research, I think that this will be remembered as one of Andrew's great contributions to the University.

Andrew was a fitness fanatic, and was extremely competitive. Way back in 1989, I introduced Andrew to Ron Paterson from the Law Faculty, and the three of us used to run together after work. We used to try and break the record for a Hobson Bay pipeline run. After being told that Ron and I had done it in what we thought was a spectacularly unbeatable 35 minutes, Andrew went out the next evening on his own and proudly announced a time of 33 minutes, which was never bettered. Through Ron, Andrew established friendships with a lot of the Law faculty in the University. This might surprise some of you, as Andrew would not have been perceived as having much in common with lawyers. But I think that people like Mike Taggart and Julie Maxton could instinctively recognize Andrew's intellectual pedigree, and they all became Andrew's close friends. On top of this Andrew was very entertaining, and great company.

Andrew was a thoroughly decent human being. He was a devoted husband to Patti, and proud and supportive of his children Zeke and Xanthe. Andrew showed great kindness and generosity towards his friends, colleagues and students. He was a very courageous man in all respects. Senate will remember that he stood up for what he believed was right, without concern for his reputation.

Andrew died of a metastatic melanoma. He was hopeful of the success of a new BRAF drug discovery; his blog describing the ordeal of this treatment was called "Andrew's recovery". To help fund the treatment, David Ryan set up a trust which received contributions from Andrew’s friends from all around the world. The treatment appeared to be working well, though Andrew was in considerable pain. In early March, it was discovered that the cancer had mutated, and that the treatment would no longer work. He went into Mercy Hospice and died on March 7. He was 48.

Andrew's memorial service at the McLaurin Chapel was attended by nearly 600 people, and his death was mourned by many more, from all around the globe. The Department, School, University and country has lost a brilliant mind and a unique personality. Patti, Zeke and Xanthe have lost a loving husband and father, and those of us who knew Andrew have lost a true friend. We will all miss him more than I can say.

Note: This eulogy was delivered by Prof. Andy Philpott, Department of Engineering Science, to a meeting of the University of Auckland Senate, on April 2nd, 2012.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Eulogy (John Morris)

I first met Andrew Pullan in 2005 when he joined the Board of Trustees of Auckland Grammar School. Many of you here today may have been surprised that, at that time, Andrew accepted the offer of a place on the Board because he had no previous contact with the school and was new to the area. And indeed Andrew was very different to the rest of the Board.

The first point of difference was that Andrew was a South Auckland boy who attended Aorere College; whereas the Board (apart from me) were heartland Grammar Zone and all old boys, except one other who was a King’s Old Collegian. At least however, Andrew and I had something in common, having been brought up in South Auckland and West Auckland respectively.

At the time of his induction onto the Board therefore, Andrew had absolutely no knowledge or understanding about Auckland Grammar School (before his son Zeke started), whereas the rest of the Board were imbued with the Grammar philosophy and the Grammar way of doing things.

Andrew in fact had been nominated for the Board by retiring member, Julie Maxton, then Dean of Law School at the University of Auckland, to continue the strong link between the Auckland Grammar School Board and the University. The university have always had a representative on our Board marking the fact that when the University started in the early 1880’s it was allied to Auckland Grammar School.

In those days Auckland Grammar School was called Auckland College and Grammar School. This connection has long been seen as significant by both institutions. But initially to Andrew it was all a bit of a mystery! And it did take him some time to get to grips with the ‘Grammar Way’.

On top of all this there was Andrew’s dress sense. Board meetings at Auckland Grammar School were invariably formal – suit and tie in general. I will never forget Andrew’s first Board meeting – he turned up in a brightly coloured polo shirt, walk shorts which were, well, quite short, running shoes and mid-length sox. Despite all the jibes he got, Andrew never buckled and stuck to his own dress code throughout his years on the Board.

Regardless of all these fundamental differences, Andrew grew to love the Board, the debates and the people on the Board, and he loved the School, especially once Zeke started at Grammar. And the Board in turn grew to enjoy Andrew and respect his viewpoint, which was, as you can imagine, at times quite different.

Once Zeke started at Grammar in 2008, Andrew really began to understand and appreciate the school and he was so proud of Zeke’s academic success at Grammar and the good mates he made at school, many of whom are here today.

Andrew particularly enjoyed his involvement with the Grammar Rowing Club of which Zeke is a member. Although not a rower himself, I think Andrew felt a great affinity with the sport because of the qualities needed to be successful in it: commitment, dedication, team work, strength, fitness and camaraderie – all things Andrew himself believed strongly in. His presence at regattas was much appreciated by the rowing club.

From my perspective, I enjoyed having Andrew on the Board and getting to know him better. In some ways Andrew was the conscience of the Board, raising matters that had previously been ignored and others that challenged the Board on different levels. From initially being a good listener on the Board, he soon became an integral, highly valued and contributing member.

Having Andrew on the Board also enabled us to get to know Patti and that has been a real joy for us, and I certainly hope that Patti and the School will stay in close contact.

Since Andrew’s illness we have really missed his presence round the Board table. I know how much he will be missed at the University but he will also leave a gaping hole on our Board.

Andrew Pullan was a fine man, taken far too young. He was a wonderful father and husband, a man of conscience, intellect and integrity. His optimism and bravery, evident throughout his illness, were inspirational.

On behalf of Auckland Grammar School I want to thank Patti for sharing Andrew with us on the Board. We have all benefited greatly from knowing him.

Per Angusta Ad Augusta

Eulogy (Heather Benn)

Professor Andrew John Pullan. It’s an impressive title, and many of you here will have known Andrew in an academic setting or for the contributions he made to the various organisations he was involved in. But I had the privilege of knowing him as my big brother.

I have often been asked, especially by his students, “What is it like having Andrew for a brother?” Well I want to answer that question today.
Andrew was the type of brother who, at the age of 13 saved up his pocket money for weeks, just so he could take his 5 year old sister Catherine to the movies… to watch Puff the Magic Dragon.

Andrew was the type of brother who, at the age of 16 saw me, his other little sister fall down at the start of a race. He came over to me, wiped away my tears and lifted me to his shoulders. He carried me there until I felt better.

Andrew was the type of brother who, when his younger brother Malcolm was going to get married, he travelled half way around the world to be with him, and be his best man.

Andrew was the type of brother who took me to Rangitoto Island when I was 13 years old. When he found I had an infected leg halfway up the climb, he walked beside me encouraging me all the way to the summit, while others raced ahead.

That was the type of brother Andrew was. He was gentle, funny and kind. He picked us up when we fell down, he wiped away our tears, he encouraged us every step of the way and rejoiced with us in our celebrations.

Professor Andrew John Pullan. Yes, it is an impressive title, but I can honestly tell you that he placed more value on the other titles he was given in this life. Titles such as friend, son, brother, husband and father. It is for this reason we are here. In every way Andrew was exceptional… and we will miss him very much.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Eulogy (Rachel Mattocks)

I read somewhere that there are only three things of value you can say of a person at a funeral:

You love them
You miss them
You will not be the same for knowing them.

In loving Andrew there was also a great deal of respect. He was strong yet gentle, hardworking yet lots of fun.

I have here something my parents wrote as a comment on Andrew’s blog: It reads: We are so very proud of the boy you were, the man you have become and all you have achieved. The caring and loving husband, father and son; someone who is always there in time of need. And now as you face one of life’s biggest challenges with dignity and fortitude we can only, once again, be amazed at your strong will and determination to overcome and succeed. Our love and prayers are with you always.

I ask you: How can you adequately describe a mother’s love for her son? How can you effectively express the pride a father has for his boy? Especially someone like Andrew.

It’s like looking at a iceberg. You can see what’s above the water but most of what it is, lies under the surface.

When I was in my teens Andrew decided that his house needed painting. I was a willing but somewhat naïve volunteer, as I am sure some of you can appreciate.

I was set to the task of scraping windows. While I was busy working Andrew came by to see how I was going. He noticed one of the hinges was loose so he set about fixing it. In order to get to the hinges I needed to hold the window horizontal, and this up a ladder. First he replaced the screws, with ones twice as long.

When Andrew wanted something to stay it wasn’t going anywhere.

However, once he’d replaced the screws, the window would no longer close because the house was so warped.

So we proceeded to take the window down and pack up the hinge. The first time we did this, it wasn’t quite enough, so we had to take the window down again. By this time I was getting pretty fatigued.

But Andrew offered plenty of encouragement for me to hang in there, and we got the job done.

It was only afterwards I noticed that he’d been working so hard and fast he’d given himself a significant blister on his hand from turning the screwdriver.

You see, he would take the pain for you. And you knew that no matter what you did he would start earlier, work harder, and be the last to give in.

But he also wanted you to succeed too, and that made it so you wanted to go that little bit further, work that little bit longer and think that little bit harder.

In honouring Andrew’s life I think most significant thing you can do is being all that you can be. Andrew did that … and then some.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Eulogy (Mike O'Sullivan)

Andrew Pullan joined the Department of Engineering Science in the early 1980s when he came over the road from Mathematics to do a PhD with Ian Collins on mathematical modeling of unsaturated groundwater. He completed his PhD in late 1987 and then tried a brief spell in the corporate world with Winstones (wearing a nice suit instead of shorts). Andrew missed the intellectual challenge of academic life and after a year or two returned again to Engineering Science. He quickly developed a research interest in mathematical modelling of the human gut and made excellent progress. His research achievements were recognized within the University by rapid promotion to a professorship. He also received many external awards and large research grants enabling him to set up a strong research team in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and he established a large network of international collaborators. Perhaps the most notable of his awards were his James Cook Fellowship and his FRSNZ. I expected him to become the second FRS from Engineering Science.

As well as being a brilliant researcher Andrew was great teacher. He was interesting, inspirational and funny. He was always rated very highly by the students and he was a delight for any HOD to deal with. He could any teach subject, he could entertain and inspire classes of 250-300 engineers in MM1 or MM2 and he could challenge and excite small classes of 15-20 in final year Engineering Science electives. He never complained about his teaching load and his teaching was always superbly well organized.

Andrew was an excellent research supervisor over the whole range from Year 4 projects through to PhDs. He was demanding, but very helpful and it is not surprising that he assembled a large and very effective research team.

Andrew was a very loyal servant of the Department. During my time as HOD I knew I could ask him to carry out any service task and he would do an excellent job, on time and without complaint.

However he was not a perfect human being: he did not like coffee, beer or red wine. As part of his campaign to avoid becoming HOD he threatened that if appointed HOD he would remove the departmental coffee machine. Fortunately his campaign failed and he was HOD from 2007 to 2010 (the coffee machine stayed). All the KPIs for the Department improved during Andrew’s watch: we published more papers, raised more money, recruited more students etc, etc and we were happy. He was a very effective but friendly and compassionate leader.

His organization of our 40th Anniversary celebrations, together with the publication of a history of the Department, was excellent. His establishment of the “Next Top Engineering Scientist” problem solving competition for high school kids was a great idea and continues on very successfully.

Engineering Science has always been a very sociable department. Our tramping trips have been highlights, with day trips down the Pararaha Valley and longer trips around Lake Waikaremoana and over the Milford Track. Andrew was always a leader in these events and he was great company. He was so fit that he could talk the whole way while some of the rest of us were struggling for breath. And he was a great camp cook.

Andrew lived life at about 150% of the rate of most human being. He was full of ideas, full of energy, full of enthusiasm. He put enormous effort into everything he did. Research, teaching, administration, gym work, skiing, home renovations, serving on school boards, looking after his family – he did all of them exceptionally well.

I remember well one small example from the early 1990s of his approach to life. Andrew and I were the two staff members who accompanied a student field trip down to Wairakei and Taupo. One evening we took the students to the AC baths and Andrew organized a friendly game of water polo. Naturally he wanted his team to win and he nearly drowned two students making sure it happened.

Andrew died at age 48, just 23 years after gaining his PhD. I figure he was only about halfway through his academic career. He had already achieved great academic success but there was much more to come. We should celebrate a wonderful life lived very fully but I find it impossible not to grieve for what might have been. He will be greatly missed by the Department of Engineering Science and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute but he will be very fondly remembered.

At my age one occasionally thinks of death and dying. In my day dreams on the topic I assemble a group of family and friends that will support me at the end. Andrew Pullan is always near the front rank of this group and I had imagined that he would be one of the people saying nice things at my funeral. Sadly this cannot happen now. I will greatly miss him.

Eulogy (Ron Paterson)

Andrew Pullan
Euology by Ron Paterson, 13 March 2012

Fakalofa lahi atu. Nga mihi mahana, ki a koutu katoa. Warm greetings to you all.

Andrew was my friend. We met around 1990, after he joined the Department of Engineering Science as a lecturer, when his colleague Andy Philpott asked Andrew to come for a run with us. So began a wonderful friendship.

I’ve been asked to do two things today: provide a sketch of Andrew’s life – his colleague Mike O’Sullivan and family will fill in some of the details – and tell you a wee bit about my friend.

Andrew was one of a kind. All of us who knew him were struck by his boundless enthusiasm and energy, the high standards he set himself, in work and fitness, his devotion to Patti and joy in Zeke and Xanthe, and his pride in their lovely home in Epsom (which managed to withstand his excessive basement excavations).

Andrew grew up in the family home in Massey Road, Mangere. He was the second of six children in a very close family. Andrew went to Robertson Road primary school and Mangere Intermediate, and to high school at Aorere College, where he cemented a family tradition of finishing as Dux. It was at Aorere College that Andrew met the love of his life, Patti.

Andrew was always very proud of his South Auckland roots. When he discovered that there was no cup for Dux at Aorere College, he immediately sought to remedy the situation, and Patti was dispatched to find a very large cup, the Pullan Cup for Dux, which Andrew himself took pride in awarding each year. Andrew would be touched by the presence here today of Aorere College staff and students.

Andrew excelled at University, living in a small caravan in the family’s backyard. I asked him a few months ago, “Did you really get all A+s in your Maths degree?” His face lit up, “Yes”, he said, and proceeded to give me all the details. Andrew fulfilled his early promise with rapid promotion to Professor and his pioneering work in biomedical engineering. He was fascinated with the human body and loved thinking about anatomy and physiology. And he loved to push his own body to the limit, in runs, on his bike, and in the gym – at Les Mills and later in his basement. Andrew did nothing by halves.

Andrew was a stickler for detail. He was also a man of firm and sometimes quirky views. He seldom saw shades of grey. He loved to bait me, on the subject of lawyers, but actually on any topic. I found him very funny. He would always come out with an unpredictable comment. He was the first visitor to our seaside home at Kawakawa Bay. He walked up the driveway (with Patti overdue with Zeke, who arrived 5 days later), and said: “Ron, Ron, Ron, what have you done? You can’t even look after a tiny section in Devonport. You’ll never manage this!”

Andrew and Patti loved to come out to Kawakawa Bay. Sometimes Andrew would bike the 62km from the city. Often he would phone ahead with his food orders. My partner Greg is a great cook, and Andrew loved his food. “Tell Greg I’d like that onion tart and the lemon dessert”, he would say. Only Andrew could do this and make you want to oblige. He and Greg went to Nepal for nearly 3 weeks in March last year. They had a wonderful time. When they got back, Andrew said to me, “I could never travel with you. But Greg was a great travelling companion!”

Andrew was a perfectionist. He could get very frustrated when he felt things weren’t being done properly, like the University’s webpage. He would phone me up on a Saturday morning and regale me with the latest obstacle to be overcome. I tried to coach him, and in his years as Head of Department he began to develop some patience – but he never quite learnt not to press “reply all” on his emails!

Many of Andrew’s former students are here today. He loved to inspire you with his ideas and excite you with his enthusiasm. I’m told that summer or winter, he would always lecture in his shorts. Andrew was never one for unnecessary formality. When he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor’s representative on the Auckland Grammar School board, he loved turning up in his shorts to meet with all the suited QCs and businessmen.

Andrew packed so much into his 48 years. He travelled all over the world to conferences, and planned elaborate trips when Patti and the kids would accompany him, as you will have seen from the slideshow. In truth, Andrew found flying a bit of a hassle, but he knew the importance of research collaborations, and he wanted to show his family the world. He was never happier than when he was home at 32 Maungawhau Road, or down at the mountain skiing with Zeke, or watching Zeke’s rowing regattas, or at a school event for Xanthe. Family always came first for Andrew.

Andrew was a University man through and through. It is fitting that he is farewelled today at the Maclaurin Chapel, at the heart of this University that he loved so much. Andrew turned to his network of University colleagues to help find the best treatment, and he was proud to be “NZ1”, the first New Zealander to receive the new Braf inhibitor, which gave him an extra 6 months, thanks to his good friend Julie Maxton and her Oxford connections. His GP Brent Maxwell from Student Health has cared for Andrew throughout his illness. It was Andrew’s departmental colleagues – Rosalind Archer, Dave Ryan, Mike O’Sullivan and Andy Philpott – who set up the trust to raise money for Andrew and Patti and family. He was so grateful for everyone’s help, and got a real kick out of the student bake-off to raise funds for the Pullan Trust.

Andrew and Patti wanted me to thank you all for the support that has meant so much to them both over the past 9 months. Andrew has had a very hard road to walk, but his determination, humanity, integrity, and great interest in others stayed with him to the end.

Andrew, your spirited energy and zest for life will continue to inspire us all. Thank you for the joy you’ve brought to our lives.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend.

God Bless you mate.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

"Take Them a Meal"

The Pullan's neighbour (Alexandra Muthu) has kindly offered to coordinate meals being dropped in Patti, Zeke and Xanthe. There is a fantastic website available to help coordinate that. If you'd like to volunteer to deliver an evening meal for the family please visit

to access the schedule of other meals being delivered.