Graham TuckwellAustralian National University has received the largest donation to a university by an Australian citizen in history. Greg Johnson reveals who the publicity-shy donor behind this extraordinary gift is.

Graham and Louise Tuckwell have made the largest donation to an Australian university by one of the nation’s citizens, with the announcement of a $50 million gift to Australian National University (ANU). The donation will fund a new scholarship program to be known as the Tuckwell Scholarships.

Graham Tuckwell (pictured right) is an alumnus of the university and founder of London-based ETF Securities, which pioneered a complex form of trading securities tied to commodities like gold and other metals through the stock exchange. The 56-year-old attributes much of his business success to his education, which was the catalyst for giving back to the university.

Mega donation to fund significant scholarships

The Tuckwell Scholarships will commence in 2014, with up to 25 scholarships valued at $20,000 per annum for up to five years to be awarded. The scholarships will be awarded to a selection of applicants with ‘a rounded set of attributes’ and achieve an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank  (ATAR) of 95 or above and can be used for accommodation and living expenses while studying.

“Both my wife and I benefited enormously from our formal education,” explained Graham. “Our university experience was life-transforming. We would like to give that opportunity to other young Australians.

“The gift was given with the intention of enabling highly talented and motivated students to fulfil their potential and reinvest their knowledge, skills and experience in ways that positively benefit others,” he added. “While at university, clearly there’s a certain amount of high-quality academic work that’s got to be done, but equally you’ve got to enjoy yourself and develop as a citizen. That’s what we would like to see these Tuckwell scholars do.”

Gift to transform Australian philanthropy?

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young AO said he was impressed with the Tuckwell’s vision in making such a substantial gift and hopes it will be transformative for Australia’s philanthropic sector as a whole.

“One of the important results of the Tuckwell donation will be to set an example of what people who have succeeded in business or other activities can do,” said Young. “I’m very hopeful that this will act as a catalyst for other philanthropists to make similar donations to Australian universities.

“It will begin a conversation about the magnitude of these types of contributions and the transformative nature they can have not only on universities but society more broadly,” he added.

While Graham Tuckwell is widely reported as an Australian billionaire, he entered both the BRW Rich 200 and The Sunday Times’ rich list last year with an estimated personal fortune of $775 million. If that estimated figure is correct, it makes the ANU donation an impressive 15.5% of Tuckwell’s net wealth.

The donation also secures Tuckwell the honour of having made the largest philanthropic donation to an Australian university by a citizen. He takes over that position from Worley Parsons chief executive John Grill, who had set a new bar with his $20 million donation to the University of Sydney in October last year.

Graham Tuckwell explains his donation in the video below:

Greg Johnson is the editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

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