Fifty years ago Hugh Blair thought he'd come to Palmerston North for a "brief visit".
The Massey University student liked Hawke's Bay where his parents had a hill country sheep and beef cattle farm at Kotemaori. He thought he'd return to the province.
Fifty years on the Professor of Animal Science at Massey has decided it is time to retire. He says he's of an age when he needs to make way for younger people. The animal science group is in good heart with good student numbers.
He'll remain at Massey one day a week as he has PhD students he is supervising and research he needs to finish plus he'll still do some undergraduate teaching.
He is the primary investigator for a Beef + Lamb New Zealand funded project and co-investigator on a number of other projects. Blair says it will be nice to be involved and keep his brain ticking over.
He is also on the board of New Zealand Animal Evaluation, a subsidiary of DairyNZ, and of Focus Genetics. He is a director of the C. Alma Baker Trust, which draws most of its revenue from a farm near Port Waikato. The trust's purpose is to further the science of agriculture and the advancement of education.
"With those activities, there probably won't be time to retire really."
His earliest memories are being on the Argyll East farm his father managed inland from Waipawa.
Alexander (Alec) had fought in World War II and was eligible to participate in the land settlement scheme. Blair remembers sitting in the car with his mother while Alec went to the RSA for the ballot.
In 1959 he was successful and Blair remembers him coming back to the car "totally elated". Using a rehabilitation loan at a low rate of interest the family were able to buy the Kotemaori farm, north of Napier.
"It was pretty rough country but it was home and it was ours."
Blair had a great childhood growing up there. His older sister and brother were at boarding school in Napier and from about 7 he became his parents' extra pair of hands.
He helped his father with mustering, fencing, lambing, and getting firewood. He would shoot and skin goats with the meat going to the dogs and he'd get 20c a skin.
When he was old enough to be trusted with the stove he was responsible for getting dinner when his parents were on their way back from town.
He boarded at Napier Boys' High School where his father had been a day boy. It was not a great experience for the first couple of weeks as he hadn't been away from home before. However, he got over the shock of being away from his parents and luckily was good at sport.
This gave him something to concentrate on and he spent a lot of his downtime training. He got into track and field and in winter it was all about rugby.
"I was fairly speedy."
His sports bent made him valuable to seniors in the boarding establishment.
His mother Elizabeth (Bess) set him on the education track. She got him reading at a young age and they would go to Napier library. Once he outgrew what was available there his mum would buy him books.
He was reading Gerald Durrell at 9 or 10. Bess had been a nurse and passed on the ability to study. "What a tremendous skill to have passed on to your children."
His father taught him practical skills and his mother kept the academic side going.
Asked why he decided to stay in Palmerston North, Blair replies "I met Alana."
He was heavily involved in Manawatū rugby and after receiving a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) in 1976 he was invited to do his PhD and be a junior lecturer in the sheep husbandry department at Massey.
So it was a combination of his future wife Alana teaching in Whanganui, the job offer, and the chance to do a PhD that kept him here. Plus there was nothing to go back to in Hawke's Bay as his father was running the farm and his brother later took over.
The Blair family connections with Massey run deep; Hugh and Alana's two children both have degrees from Massey as do their spouses. With Alana that's six adults with 10 Massey qualifications between them.
Blair was part of the Manawatū team that held the Ranfurly Shield for two years. Photos of him from those days show legs made for sprinting. Wikipedia describes him as a Ranfurly Shield hero and crowd favourite who was "instantly recognisable with his long blond hair, headband and beard".
After a spell as a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, he returned to Massey in 1983 as a lecturer in animal science. In 1995 he became Professor of Animal Science.
People have been the highlights of his career teaching animal breeding and genetics, the friends he has made who have become family friends.
He says it has been an absolute privilege to teach mostly young people for 46 years. It would be thousands of people he's had an influence on and he has to think "wow, that's amazing".
Yes, there have been prizes and extensive world travel but they are also-rans compared to the people.
Blair quickly learned students can hit brick walls and the first time that happens in front of you you think "crikey, I didn't see that happening".
You have to be big enough to understand people see the world differently from you and this influences their actions, he says.
He's been thanked for listening and understanding and helping people get over that brick wall and go on to achieve what they wanted to do.
"Picking them up and helping them along I think is a very important part of the job."
Blair has kept a diary for the best part of 50 years and plans to write short non-fiction stories from his travels and experiences.