South Island philanthropist “led by example”
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar – who has helped promote causes such as the establishment of sports arenas in Dunedin – is remembered as a man who amplified his impact by inspiring others.
Sir Eion (76) died yesterday at his Queenstown home, his family announced.
He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late last year.
Sir Eion spent nearly 50 years with investment firm Forsyth Barr, including two decades as chairman, and was its chief executive in the 1990s.
He was known for his support of countless causes, two of which being prominent being Dunedin’s multi-purpose indoor sports complex, the Edgar Center, and the Forsyth Barr indoor stadium, home of the Highlanders rugby team.
Forsyth Barr chief executive Neil Paviour-Smith described Sir Eion as a generous, inspiring and enthusiastic leader.
“He loved life, he had a hard time saying no, he was a mentor and encouraged people to get involved and do their best.
“He really set an example in this regard and he was extraordinarily generous, as well as a proud southerner.”
Sir Eion enjoyed the company of others, Mr Paviour-Smith said.
“I used to joke that he would go to the airport early for a flight so he could do a few rounds of the Koru Club and catch up with people.”
Sir Eion has been appointed Ambassador for Forsyth Barr.
“We express our sincere condolences, thoughts and best wishes to Eion’s 50-year-old wife Jan, Lady Edgar, her sons Jonty, Hamish and Adam and the entire Edgar family,” said Mr Paviour- Smith.
Sir Eion left a huge legacy, his family said in a statement.
“He was a leader in philanthropy in New Zealand and brought others with him to amplify his impact and help make New Zealand a better place.”
His 36-year-old friend, the mayor of Queenstown Lakes, Jim Boult, called Sir Eion a “good Kiwi”.
“He has been an absolute gift to our district and all of New Zealand.”
He was generous with his own money and in convincing others to support causes, Boult said.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said Sir Eion has made a huge contribution to New Zealand, especially Dunedin and the wider Otago region.
“His philanthropic efforts have benefited virtually every aspect of this community, including education, youth, sports, the arts and health.
“Perhaps most visibly, the ever popular Edgar Center in Dunedin was only made possible by the passion and very generous donation of Sir Eion in the mid-1990s.”
Sports and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson said Sir Eion’s generosity, drive and energy had been immense.
“On a personal level, I want to thank Sir Eion for his unwavering generosity of spirit.”
He was a former director of the Halberg Disability Foundation and chairman of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Sir Eion has won numerous awards and accolades for his philanthropy, including a knight title, NBR New Zealander of the Year 2004, Senior New Zealander of the Year in 2010 and was inducted into the Business Hall of Fame.
He was a past chairman of the Winter Games NZ Charitable Trust and a founding benefactor and chairman of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Center at the University of Otago.
The Edgar family’s appointment to the Dunedin Indoor Sports Venue Trust, Alan McKenzie, said many people would never know how vast Sir Eion’s contribution was.
He had intended to die with everyone who owed him a favor and could have achieved it, Mr McKenzie said.
Sir Eion was chancellor of the university from 1999 to 2003.
University of Otago Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson said university council, staff and students were deeply saddened by his death.
University Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville has said Sir Eion is a dear friend and steadfast supporter of the university.
He became a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for service to education, business and sport, in 2003 and after re-establishment of full honors, he accepted the requalification of knight in 2009 .
Details of his funeral have yet to be confirmed.