The largest gift ever given to an Australian university for the benefit of students by an alumnus to his alma mater will go much further than transforming students' lives.
In 2013, Graham and Louise Tuckwell sent an aspirational call to action for school leavers and in doing so, changed the philanthropic landscape for ANU and other Australian universities.
The $50 million gift, given through the Graham & Louise Tuckwell foundation, funded the Tuckwell Scholarships, the most transformational undergraduate scholarship program in Australia. Every year, 25 new Scholars will be awarded $20,000 per annum for the length of their degree to support a community-based residential experience at ANU.
With a strong focus on giving back to Australia, the program is as unique as the gift. It is the only one of its kind to nurture students to fulfil their broader community ambitions over and above the pursuit of a university degree.
The Scholarships, open to students Australia-wide, are also unique in that they allow recipients to study a single or double undergraduate program, including honours and vertical degrees (degrees that combine undergraduate and graduate study in a reduced time-frame) in any discipline. With such broad offerings, the Tuckwells and the University hope to attract a talented and diverse group of students who will go on to contribute to many different areas of Australian society.
The Tuckwells' vision for the program was born of a desire to give young Australians the same opportunities and experiences that they had as students, said Graham.
"Both my wife and I benefited enormously from our educational experiences. We just went to normal state schools, but our university experiences were life-transforming. We would like to give that opportunity to other young Australians who we feel can use their education to transform not only their lives, but also the lives of others," he said.
With 25 scholarships awarded every year, a community of Tuckwell Scholars will quickly emerge. The Tuckwells hope the group will create a bond that lasts well beyond the Scholars' time on campus.
"Over time there will be an increasing number of graduates, and hence alumni, and an ever-expanding group of people who have benefited from the program" said Graham.
Graham and Louise think it is important that Tuckwell Scholars are chosen not only for their academic merit but also for their commitment to their community and their willingness to give back.
"Clearly there's a certain amount of good-quality academic work that's got to be done, but equally you've got to enjoy yourself and develop as an individual. That's what we would like to see these Tuckwell Scholars do," said Graham.
In 2012 Graham was listed as one of the 10 wealthiest entrants on the 1,000-strong annual British Rich List. he earned the spot through sheer hard work. After 20 years in corporate advisory and investment banking in Australia and London, Graham founded – and became Chairman of – ETF Securities Limited, a leading issuer of Exchange Traded Products (ETP), a concept that Graham invented. The company has approximately $30 billion in assets, making it the seventh largest ETP firm in the world.
Graduating in 1978 with a Bachelor of Economics with Honours and then again in 1981 with a Bachelor of Laws, Graham has come a long way since his days at ANU where he lived on campus at Bruce hall and balanced studying and playing golf. In choosing ANU to be the custodian of the Tuckwell Scholarships, Graham hopes Tuckwell Scholars will have the same benefits he gained from being an ANU graduate.
"This is a national scholarship program where we are aiming to get students from all around Australia at a single university, which enables them to interact with each other – and that university is Australia's best university, ANU. I can tell you it's the best university because I benefited enormously from the springboard of opportunities that it gave me in life," he said.
Dr Colin Taylor, Director of Alumni Relations & Philanthropy said that the expectation for scholars to give back is inherent in the Tuckwell Scholarships.
"The Tuckwell Scholarships are a powerful demonstration of transformative philanthropy. Building on a long history of giving by our alumni and friends, the Tuckwell gift marks a new chapter in the story of philanthropy at ANU. That their vision so clearly encompasses the idea of 'giving back' inspires us all and will help to build a generation of future philanthropists, who will give back, in ways significant to them, for the benefit of Australia and the world."
The Tuckwells' gift has done just that. Their gift encouraged other Australian philanthropists to give, with two large donations made to other universities in 2013.
The first 25 Tuckwell Scholars began their studies at ANU in 2014 and were chosen from a shortlist of 72 students. The original call for scholars attracted 657 applicants of which 217 were invited to the next stage of assessment. The final 72 spent a weekend at ANU undertaking a series of individual and group interviews.
Inspired by the Tuckwells' vision, ANU established 100 new scholarships for first-year students to study at ANU with oneoff ANU Centenary Scholarships, valued at $5,000 each.
The announcement of the Centenary Scholarships was made in late 2013 at the B-HERT Awards, where Graham and Louise Tuckwell were honoured for their generous gift with the 2013 Award for Outstanding Philanthropic Support of Higher Education.
The Centenary Scholarships were awarded to the first 100 shortlisted Tuckwell Scholarship applicants who did not receive either a Tuckwell or other ANU scholarship.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young said that the Tuckwells' vision and the students shortlisted for the Tuckwell Scholarships inspired the University to act. He commended the Tuckwells for looking to the future to ensure their generosity has longevity.
"The Tuckwells have been extremely generous, not only with their donation, but with their gifts of time, thought and knowledge to developing such an outstanding and unique program. For that, I, on behalf of the University, am truly grateful," he said.