At 73 years young Gordon Hewitt says the word ‘retirement’ is not in his vocabulary
“I haven’t got around to it. My worry is if I retire I’ll be just as busy but I won’t get paid for it.”
The Eastbourne resident is enjoying a successful second career as a psychotherapist after spending 25 years as a zoologist and academic.
Brought up in Eastbourne, Dr Hewitt returned 20 years ago and still loves the local lifestyle. “It’s like a little village. It takes three hours to do your shopping because everyone stops and talks.”
Growing up in the village, he enjoyed the bush and the harbour around Eastbourne. Those activities encouraged an interest in living creatures. “I wanted to be a vet. But in those days you had to go to Australia to train and I couldn’t afford that. So I went to university and studied biology with the idea of becoming a teacher.”
After completing a Masters in Zoology Dr Hewitt enrolled at teachers’ training college in Christchurch. After six months He was offered and accepted a job at Victoria University and abandoned his plans of becoming a school teacher.
In the late 1960s he completed his PhD in parasitology - the study of parasites. He became quite an expert on parasites in fish and rats and completed a study of whirling disease in trout and identified its parasitic origins. “I then got interested in genetics. Geoff Rickards and I set up Victoria University’s first ever course in genetics.”
For 25 years he enjoyed the life of an academic especially the teaching. “I’m a bit of a showman at heart. It’s exciting teaching a group of 300 who are fascinated with what I’m saying.”
Dr Hewitt’s academic career had many successes, including postdoctoral studies in Canada, a visiting lectureship in Malaysia and becoming Victoria’s Dean of Science. But despite lifetime tenure, Dr Hewitt walked away. “In the late 1980s the government decided that universities should be run as businesses. The life as an academic ceased to be as much fun.”
So he left Victoria to become head of the School of Health Sciences at the Central Institute of Technology in Upper Hutt.
But after five years at CIT, Dr Hewitt moved in a different direction, establishing a private practice as a psychotherapist. “Psychotherapy is about helping people make changes in their lives, particularly where they have long-standing patterns of behaviour that are really not working for them.”
He became interested in psychotherapy after training as a marriage counsellor in the 1970s. After years of counseling in his spare time, Dr Hewitt trained as a psychotherapist. That part-time interest later became his vocation.
Dr Hewitt says psychotherapists are different than counsellors. Psychotherapists focus on behaviour, while counsellors are more problem focused.
He says psychotherapy helps treat issues such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders and anger.
After nearly 20 years as a psychotherapist Dr Hewitt is as busy as ever. While he restricts his private practice to three days a week, he is in constant demand to run training courses, while he is also deputy chairman of the Psychotherapists Board, the statutory body that registers and disciplines the country’s 550 psychotherapists.
Dr Hewitt enjoys giving back to his community. His main avenue for doing that is through Pencarrow Rotary where he is a past-president and current membership director. He is particularly proud of Rotary’s local projects, such as helping the local volunteer fire brigade, helping elderly people by installing smoke alarms, and doing planting on Eastbourne’s sand dunes. “I like it that Rotary operates on three levels - locally, regionally and internationally.”
He is also proud of a scholarship scheme his club set up for promising high school students in Samoa that enables them to study at the University of the South Pacific.
Outside work, Dr Hewitt enjoys biking, tramping and travelling – both in New Zealand and overseas. And with two grown-up children and three grandchildren, family remainss important.