Class of 1967

Mike O’Driscoll is an Aquinian whose chosen subject arrived at a time when it was most needed. He studied psychology and specialised in bullying in the workplace, work-life balance, stress and burnout. Organisational psychologists have them all in the spotlight, as do educationalists, and will do for some time.

Mike comes from a long line of O’Driscolls who once ruled part of the south of Ireland, before setting out for new futures on the west coast of Australia. His father Eugene was a geologist who had been taught at Christian Brothers College Perth. Mike very sadly lost his mother at a young age. The family moved to Perth from Adelaide in 1963 and Mike went to Aquinas from 1966-67. He thoroughly enjoyed the teaching, in particular Brother Woodruff’s maths class and Brother Warner’s Latin class. He left in 1967 with the Latin prize, as a sergeant in the cadets and having played with the First XV rugby team. He described Aquinas as a “tremendous atmosphere where people were encouraged to do their best, an inspiring place”.

His younger brother Peter was a much-loved and respected Christian Brother who sadly died very young in 2001. A strong spiritual streak ran through the O’Driscoll family as Mike himself joined an order, the Passionists, after school while starting university in Sydney. He transferred to Melbourne and then withdrew from the order feeling a need to learn more about life.

Mike enrolled in Psychology at UWA in 1971 and graduated three years later. He continued with study, completing his PhD in Psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide in 1978. Mike was employed as a lecturer by the University of Papua New Guinea from 1979 to 1981 before a challenging role came up at Waikato University in New Zealand.

As Mike found his natural home in the ranks of New Zealand’s academia, a new science was being born: organisational psychology, previously known as industrial psychology. At Waikato University he established a teaching program in Organisational Psychology, including a specialist Master’s degree, and led research on stress and well-being in the workplace. He was made Professor of Psychology in 2000, and also was head of the department for nine years.

Mike’s impressive career is peppered with awards: the New Zealand Psychological Society Jamieson Award in Organisation Psychology (2014), the Vice Chancellor’s Medal for Staff Excellence (2016) and the Waikato Lifetime Research Excellence Award (2017). He has over a hundred publications in academic and professional journals and over 90 presentations at conferences over thirty-five years. Mike has supervised many PhD and Masters students and is widely published on stress in the workplace, bullying and work-life balance.

Mike has a son and daughter. Looking back, he believes Aquinas gave him a sense of commitment, a logical approach to problem-solving and a strong motivation to be successful.