The University of Queensland’s fundraising program is increasingly focussing on maintaining relationships with alumni to help fund research work. The shift is already bearing fruit, including a $15 million gift. Rochelle Nolan reports.

Queensland businessman Graeme Wood has donated $15 million to a new University of Queensland (UQ) institute which aims to tackle problems linked to global scale change. Wood, an alumnus of UQ, co-founded online accommodation company wotif.com in 2000.

UQ’s Global Change Institute (GCI) will focus on first-order environmental problems such as climate change, as well as interconnected issues including population shifts, energy innovation and water and food security. Wood’s contribution will help finance a $40 million building at UQ’s St Lucia Campus, which will employ sustainable design, construction and operating practices. The institute will include Australia’s largest solar photo-voltaic grid electricity generator.

Deputy vice chancellor (external relations) at UQ, Professor Ian Zimmer, is responsible for directing and executing the university’s fundraising agenda and external relations program. He says Wood has long been involved with the university, co-establishing an endowment fund in 2007.

“Graeme Wood is a graduate of UQ so there’s an existing relationship there. Graeme previously made a major gift to co-establish an endowment fund, which helped support a research and education centre targeting youth drug and alcohol abuse.

“Graeme doesn’t write a cheque for nothing; he wants to make sure his gift is used effectively. The GCI is something he’s interested in, and in fact he’s an executive of the institute.

Professor Zimmer says it is important to build relationships with past students. “Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with alumni is something we’ve begun focussing on more over the last few years. We have events which anyone in the community who has an interest in the university is welcome to attend, but we do pay particular attention to our alumni.”

Wood says universities are the logical places to find solutions to the world’s problems, and so they deserve support and investment on behalf of future generations.

“Our generation can and must make a mark in history by espousing altruism and responsible human practices to leave the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.

“Every gift counts, but in order to make a difference, substantial support is necessary.”

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