Message from the outgoing Chief Executive Officer
During her three years as inaugural Chief Executive Officer of the University of Newcastle Foundation, Louise O’Connell established a dynamic culture of giving and is grateful for those who support what she calls ‘our great University’.
The gift of education comes in all shapes and sizes and I have not ceased to be amazed by the capacity for giving Novocastrians have. In the decade since the University of Newcastle Foundation was established in the late 1990s, more than $30 million dollars was given through donations and bequests to support scholarships, prizes, academic positions and research.
In 2010, the community generously gave more than $4 million, double the previous year. This figure rose steadily with the University benefitting from just over $5 million in new gifts last year.
I have loved helping people invest in education and see it as the ultimate vehicle for the progress of a region, if not the world.
Education is the key to so much. It can alleviate poverty – at levels experienced not just here in the Hunter – because it can bring people from all walks of life into the economy.
It’s the ultimate solution to world peace because if you build educated understanding, you build tolerance and acceptance.
Education plays a crucial role in sustaining our environment and it’s the ultimate solution to fighting the big health issues.
Locally, research into medical science would never have had a chance to develop if it wasn’t for the support of community members like the Burges family. There’s the new scholarship in engineering and a community outreach service made possible by the generosity of others.
The Foundation is also a conduit to support amazing researchers like Dr Nikola Bowden.
I have been honoured to deal with incredible individuals like Jennie Thomas whose big-hearted generosity has paved the way forward for more than 50 scholars. Then there is the group of Singaporean alumni who, as per the Chinese proverb, did not forget the stream from which they drank and established a scholarship for academically gifted students facing hardship.
In fact, alumni in general make up almost 70 per cent of those who donate to our Annual Appeal for scholarships to support disadvantaged students. It is heartening to see this connection to the University upheld and nurtured in such a meaningful way.
There is strong support amongst industry and it has been a pleasure to deal with the companies and businesses who commit valued funds to supporting our students and projects.
There are so many causes out there, each probably worthy in their own right but each almost certainly able to be supported locally through the University of Newcastle.
Few people realise the breadth and diversity of support they can give. Donating to scholarships, for example, is a great way to make a difference. You can support existing scholarships, or you can set up your own if you feel passionate about a certain area.
Students who won scholarships this year did incredibly well. Of all the years to win that extra helping hand, this has been the toughest so far. There were close to 3,000 applications for the 200 scholarships currently funded by supporters, so there clearly is a great need.
I imagine that is because the University of Newcastle leads Australia with its enrolment of Indigenous and low socio-economic status students, at close to double the national average.
This is something we are enormously proud of and it is fitting that a number of our scholarships are for students from these backgrounds.
One individual who gives to student scholarships tells me that for him, it’s about giving where there is a need, and where he feels connected. He says it’s the quiet knowledge of having done something that can transform someone’s life forever.
I think that’s fantastic – no gift is too great or small and they all go toward supporting amazing students who in turn will go on to touch so many lives around them.
It is a circle of giving, a ripple effect, that starts locally here in Newcastle.
I encourage people to really give this some thought. Giving to the University is not about supporting an institution, it’s about investing in education.
Donations to research can quite literally save lives, contribute to scientific or technical breakthroughs, or profoundly change the world in which we live. You can work with the University of Newcastle Foundation to establish a Professorial position or pass something of your own on to the University’s students. You can also talk to us about leaving a lasting legacy in your will.
I would like to thank the generous individuals, businesses and community groups I have had the honour of dealing with over the past three years for thinking globally and acting locally. We are incredibly lucky to have such fantastic supporters and I can’t thank you enough – you really do make a world of difference to this University and its students.
It is your passion for education and its role in the future that has the power to transform lives.
12 September 2012
Louise O’Connell is the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the University of Newcastle Foundation