It has been a tough few days for Nexus Magazine and the Waikato Students’ Union as we mourn the loss of Max Christofferson, who passed away last week as the result of a heart attack. Max served as the WSU Communications and Marketing Manager and a Nexus columnist for a significant period of the 90s, having prior established Contact FM and co-created the now iconic Axe Attack, which would eventually migrate to the Rock.
To label Max as one thing or another at this stage however seems reductive and does a disservice to a man whose legacy will stretch far beyond labels or a few communities he touched. Max Christoffersen was my lecturer, my mentor and most significantly my friend. Max had a personality that was infectious, an enthusiasm for mayhem, and an unwavering, if sometimes misplaced, sense of black and white without the burden of grey areas the rest of us are forced to operate in. Max’s ideologies were rooted in a deep and sometimes unrequited love for student culture and Hamilton as a whole. It made him a brilliant columnist for the Waikato Times, and a fantastic mentor.
He was the first person I called when I took over the role at Nexus and the WSU eight years ago, and he drove from Tauranga to discuss the position with me and all the ways he felt I was going to screw it up. In the nearly 20 years I was blessed to have Max on the periphery of my life, he taught me lessons that will stay with me forever. Lessons like “If people have a problem with me wearing the tie of one of the greatest Rock Bands of all time (it was a Gene Simmons tie) then there is nothing I will ever be able to do to help them.” He also told me “Never quit a job quietly” and that the words “Fuck them” were a complete sentence.
During his time with the WSU, Max fought against the destruction of student culture, fought to preserve Nexus and student radio, and fought almost anything else he could find. He taught me how to do things with integrity, how to fight against compromise, and why Eddie Vedder is one of the most underrated lyricists of all time.
Ironically, the last column I read from him about legacy, student culture, and the fight against the “petrol station culture” was the day I learned of his passing. Reading it again seems bittersweet now. When I think about his legacy and how he would want to be remembered outside of his most important roles as husband, father, and grandfather, I don’t really know how else he would want to be remembered. A guy with opinions, a modern day Don Quixote, a Real Madrid fan? Max Christoffersen was a complex, principled, and razor sharp man who fought hard for what he believed to be right.
I first met Max Christofferson when I was 19 years old in an Intro to PR class, with the aforementioned Gene Simmons tie. So great was my adoration for him that I followed him into student radio, into the WSU, and will continue to second guess myself with the refrain “what would Max do?” endlessly looped inside my head for many years to come. I am 37 years old now, and the best way I can think to describe Max’s legacy is that he is still the man I want to be when I grow up.