Bill Bowness swallowed his stuttering struggles to build a successful business career. Now he’s spending on speech strategies and scholarships for others.
University of Queensland alumnus Bill Bowness overcame financial hardship and a severe stutter to forge a successful career in business – now he is donating $1 million to help others beat the same challenges.
Chairman of the Wilbow Group investment company, Bowness has given $1 million to The University of Queensland with $500,000 going towards Australia’s first Telerehabilitation Clinic for speech pathology services and the remaining $500,000 in scholarships to support financially disadvantaged students.
“I have learned over the years that there are many kids who, like me, had the talent but never had the family support or fiscal backing to exploit and take advantage of their natural talent,” he says.
Bowness graduated from UQ with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1968.
“University was a life-changing experience for me,” he says. “It showed me what I had and what I could be – and I hope to provide that opportunity to others.”
Bowness’s background was in banking and investment banking before he became the founder, chairman and CEO of Wilbow Corporation. Established in 1976, offices were subsequently opened in Brisbane, Queensland, Dallas United States and Auckland, New Zealand (1989-2004). The Australian operations were sold to a major public company in late 2006 and the Dallas operations retained.
Bowness was chair of the Monash Gallery of Art Committee of Management from 1998 to 2010 and is a trustee of the Monash Gallery of Art Foundation. He was appointed a member of the National Gallery of Victoria Foundation and The Australian Ballet Foundation in 2010.
The new University of Queensland Telerehabilitation Clinic will provide a state-of-the-art service for clients with communication and physical disorders, and will work across rural and remote areas and with people who are economically disadvantaged or unable to access services due to physical issues.
The Bowness Family Foundation will also create a PhD Scholarship in Speech Pathology and Telerehabilitation. Both the clinic and the scholarship will be within UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
Mr Bowness said the clinic would have a profound effect on its clients. “Until you suffer from a stutter, you have no idea what the consequences might be, and the Telerehabilitation Clinic will provide invaluable support by assisting people with a stutter and many other types of speech and physical disorders,” he said.
“As a family, we have a philosophy. It sounds formal, but if you have taken, you should give back.”
Bowness’s gift will also establish the Bowness Family Foundation Young Achievers Scholarships as part of UQ’s Young Achievers Program.
The program supports the study aspirations of students identified in Year 10, who are then supported and mentored through their final two years of secondary education. Once enrolled at UQ, they are awarded a scholarship of $6,000 a year for up to four years. Mr Bowness’s donation will fund two scholarships a year in perpetuity.
UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj says Bowness’s gift will have a direct impact in the community.
“Whether it is students who will have the opportunity to attend UQ when they might not otherwise have, or those who can gain access to high quality speech pathology services, the effect of this generous donation will be felt immediately,” he says. “We are proud and honoured that this gift has been made by a fine alumnus who is ensuring a better future for generations to come.”
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Head Professor Louise Hickson, says the new clinic will be of enormous benefit to the community. “There are so many children and adults who need rehabilitation services but cannot receive them because they live outside major metropolitan centres,” she says. “The Telerehabilitation Clinic will allow us to provide services to this broader population and really make a difference to their quality of life.”