A young woman with her own key to Hamilton’s Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral will soon be going
to university to study mechanical engineering.

Tara Fernandez-Ritchie
Tara Fernandez-Ritchie has her own key to the cathedral so she can go and practise the organ almost any time of day.
Miss Fernandez-Ritchie is one of 10 school leavers from around New Zealand to have been awarded a University of Waikato Golden Jubilee Scholarship, giving her $10,000 a year for up to four years of study.
The scholarships were offered as part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2014 and have been awarded to students who demonstrate a high level of academic excellence, leadership potential and community citizenship.
Miss Fernandez-Ritchie sat scholarship physics last year and will soon be at the University of Waikato to study mechanical engineering.
She was the 2014 dux at Sacred Heart College in Hamilton and is equally comfortable playing the organ and jazz piano as she is doing science.
“Mum used to force me to go to Science Club, and it wasn’t until I got to year 11 when I had to work at it that I decided I liked the sciences. I like the challenges science and maths present, and the fact you often have to work in teams to solve problems or create products or solutions,” she said.
“To me, engineering is the basis of the infrastructure of a country, and traditionally it’s been a male dominated field. I like the idea of more women being a part of such an important discipline. It also requires a good blend of theory and practical, and practical is something I know I need to work on.”
In 2013, Miss Fernandez-Ritchie was selected to be the new organ scholar at the cathedral and now accompanies the choir and often leads the congregation in music.
She’s also a competent singer and last year took part in the Hamilton Garden Arts Festival, World Music Day in Centre Place and in June went to Samoa on a school music trip.
Miss Fernandez-Ritchie should have ready access to inside information should she need it. Her
older sister is studying chemistry there and her mother, Dr Teresa Fernandez, is a senior tutor for the university’s bridging programmes.
— Alison Robertson works for the University of Waikato.