Michael Sewell says he will be happy to bow to his sister Karen Sewell now that she is a dame.

The former Whanganui Girls' College head girl was named a dame companion of the New Zealand order of merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

"I am delighted for Karen - the honour is well-deserved," he said.

"I'm just glad that I can bow rather than curtsy to her."


The retired chartered accountant said he and wife Jocelyn have remained living in Whanganui while Karen has lived in Wellington for many years and his other sister Penryn lives in the United States.

"Karen is in London at the moment but I know she is both honoured and humbled by the recognition."

Dame Karen Sewell was awarded the honour for services to education having worked as a teacher, principal, chief executive of the Ministry of Education, chief executive of the Education Review Office and acting chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

In 2013 she worked as the education minister's representative in Christchurch working with schools affected by the 2011 earthquakes.

Although she officially retired in 2011, Dame Karen is the chairwoman of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu - New Zealand's largest correspondence school.

Her knighthood makes her the third Whanganui Girls' College alumni to become a dame.

She joins Dame Tariana Turia who was knighted last year for services to Parliament and musician Dame Gillian Weir who was named a commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1996 for services to music.

Michael Sewell said he and his sisters are the great-grandchildren of surveyor and town clerk Henry Field who arrived in Whanganui in the early 1850s - the man who Fields Track, which runs from Kakatahi to Karioi, was named after.