Synlait founder John Penno will receive an honorary doctorate from Lincoln University on Friday.

Dr Penno, who was brought up on a Morven farm, co-founded the Synlait Group in 2000 and stood down as Synlait Milk chief executive last year.

He remains on the board as a director.

After completing an agricultural science degree, he began his career in the dairy industry as a consulting officer for the New Zealand Dairy Board before joining Dexcel as a research scientist, where he completed a PhD in animal science.


Dr Penno received an emerging leader's award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust in 2009, a Prime Minister's Business Scholarship in 2012, and the Excellence in Leadership award at the 2015 New Zealand International Business Awards.

In 2009, he was named Federated Farmers inaugural agribusiness person of the year in recognition of his contribution to the New Zealand dairy industry.

At the time his departure from Synlait was signalled, Dr Penno said he was looking forward to getting back to his entrepreneurial roots and would be looking for opportunities to get involved with start-ups and young companies with his wife Maury Leyland Penno, a former Fonterra executive.

Also to receive honorary doctorates from Lincoln are naturalist Hugh Wilson and farm adviser John Tavendale.

The graduation ceremonies will also include posthumous awards to two victims of the Christchurch terror attacks, as well as a student who died in an accident last year.

About 570 students will be receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees in two ceremonies at the Lincoln Events Centre.