Dame Wendy Pye has been fielding hundreds of congratulatory letters, cards and emails since her New Year Honours appointment was announced. But Dame Wendy is modest, saying the accolade is good for the educational publishing industry… “the only publishing industry,” she says with a laugh. “It also reflects how we are seen and valued internationally.”
Nor has she stopped working long enough to enjoy her new status. Along with members of her team, she began an American road trip in New York last week giving workshops on a repackaged product that meets new American educational standards. “That’s 6,500 pages of teacher notes over three levels just finished and on the presses now.”
Among the messages from overseas and local educational publishing colleagues, Dame Wendy has had heart-warming letters from the families of people who worked with her from as long as 30 years ago. One effect of the correspondence, she says, shows that it has put educational publishing on the map. “I was told: this is a very good day for educational publishing around the world. That shows we need to shout more loudly!”
Joy Cowley has written books for the Pye imprints since she began her independent business. “I have known Wendy for over 40 years, as publisher, educator, businesswoman and friend, and have huge admiration for her. I believe that this honour should have come to her years ago,” says Joy. “That it didn’t, is probably because Dame Wendy has always been a ‘straight-shooter’ who values integrity over social nicety.
“Ever since I’ve known her, Dame Wendy has been driven by a desire to do the best for the future of the world. That altruistic ambition has sometimes met the scorn of cynics but it hasn’t stopped Dame Wendy from devoting her life to children’s reading. Wendy’s mother once described her as a ‘bulldozer’. That well describes Dame Wendy’s work ethic; but the ‘bulldozer’ is powered by the fuel of goodness, and it has done much for New Zealand and the world,” Joy believes.
“The number of people remembering me was humbling,” said Dame Wendy. She knew about the honour, but had to keep it secret for three months. “I told nobody. Mind you, it was easy because I didn’t think that happened to people like me, but to other people like high court judges! I’m just a gal with a satchel tied to her back, so it was a bit overwhelming, I felt like putting on dark glasses!”
With three generations of family visiting from Western Australia for the holidays, Dame Wendy was delighted to have extra company to share “the time to drink a little champagne.”
She thinks the recognition that comes with this major honour will highlight to governments the importance of what educational publishers do, teaching every child to read. She is working on a project in Nigeria for free tablet computers for every child in school. “My dream is that it helps, it uses my skills to make a difference.”
PANZ president Kevin Chapman contacted Dame Wendy with the association’s good wishes on receiving her honour. “Please accept the congratulations of the industry on your elevation, and know that we all consider it well deserved,” he wrote.
“You have worked tirelessly to promote NZ creativity and it is very pleasing to see you acknowledged so properly.”
Note: a profile of the Wendy Pye Group ran in the PANZ News issue of August 22 last. You can read it here.