Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has gifted a staggering $65 million – believed to be the nation’s largest single philanthropic donation – to attract the world’s best minds to Western Australia’s universities.
About $50 million from the chairman of Fortescue Metals Group will be used to establish the Forrest Foundation, to fund scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships across all five of WA’s universities.
And another $15 million will build Forrest Hall at St George’s College at the University of Western Australia (UWA), a living space for researchers that is hoped will rival the best residential colleges in the world.
The gift will be the centrepiece of the UWA’s new fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $400 million and we will be launched on Tuesday with a gala dinner attended by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Forrest, who graduated from UWA in 1983, said he wanted to use his money to invest in the country and its young people.
“Only education can be the final key to eliminate poverty in the world and raise the universal standard of living, ultimately to increase the nobility of the human cause,” he said.
“Having visited so many of them, I believe the University of Western Australia is an excellent example of what our universities can grow to.”
The donation is part of a previous pledge by Mr Forrest and his wife Nicola to give away half of his estimated US$5.3 billion fortune, as part of the “Giving Pledge” movement founded by American billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.
It follows other big donations from the couple including $3 million to the Art Gallery of WA, $3.7 million that was shared between the WA Symphony Orchestra, WA Opera and the Black Swan State Theatre Centre, and $1.3 million to Murdoch University’s Institute for Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
Dr Michael Chaney, UWA Chancellor, said the gift would transform the college.
“It’s going to help us create the future by enabling us to gear up our research effort as we move into our second century,” Dr Chaney said.
The university’s fundraising campaign aims to fund future student scholarships, new research and a new indigenous cultures museum.
AUSTRALIA’S TOP PHILANTHROPIC GIFTS BEFORE THE FORREST ENDOWMENT
$27.5 million: Queensland Institute of Medical Research Building (2001). Donor Chuck Feeney, Atlantic Philanthropies
$21 million to date: The Poynton Bequest (1986-2013). Donor Dr Orde Poynton
$17.7 million: Establishment of Orygen Youth Health Research Centre (2001). Donor Colonial Foundation
$15 million: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (2010). Donor Simon and Catriona Mordant
$13.2 million: Establishment of the Royal Botanic Gardens (2004-2012). Donor Elizabeth Murdoch and other philanthropic supporters
$10 million: The David Thomas Challenge (2007). Donor David and Barbara Thomas
$5 million: Vincent Fairfax Fellowships (1994). Donor Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
$5 million: Betty Amsden Arts Education Endowment for Children (2009). Donor Betty Amsden
$5 million: Institute for Economics and Peace (2007). Donor Steve Killelea
1 million pounds: Establishment of the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust (1912). Donor: Eliza Hall
378,000 pounds: The Felton Bequest (1904). Donor: Alfred Felton
276,000 pounds: John Henry Challis Bequest (1880). Donor: John Henry Challis
196,700 pounds: The Mayne Bequest (1939) Donor James O’Neil and Mary Emelia Mayne
200,000 pounds: St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (1951). Donor: Michael ‘Jack’ Holt
SOURCE: List compiled by representatives of the Myer Family Company, The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund, Pro Bono Australia, Philanthropy Australia and Swinburne University of Technology following a public nomination process.
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