When Michelle Lagana, director of development at Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) asked Clive Berghofer to consider supporting the development of a new cancer centre, he said “let me sleep on it”. And he did. At 4.58pm the next day he rang back and said yes, to the tune of $5 million. This is her (and his) story… The Gift
Who would have thought that the grandson of a Bavarian migrant who left school at 13 would play a major role in the development of a world-first cancer treatment?
Clive Berghofer is an unassuming but well-known identity in Toowoomba. An ex-mayor and ex-member of the Legislative Assembly for Toowoomba South, Clive is also a property developer, self-made millionaire, and philanthropist to local causes.
We first decided to ask Clive for support after he expressed an interest at the launch of the cancer centre. Our director, Professor Michael Good, suggested we offer him the naming rights for the centre, and our chairman Paul Wright and I hosted a light lunch for him a short time later.
He continued to show enthusiasm, and finally Christine Borthwick (QIMR development manager) and I made a Powerpoint presentation to Clive where we talked about naming rights opportunities. It was the day after this that Clive made his very generous pledge of $1 million a year for five years. That was back in 2001 and the centre now bears Clive’s name.Although well known as a local philanthropist, Clive had never before contributed such a sizeable amount to an organisation, or outside Toowoomba.
Like most people, Clive has experienced the devastation of cancer through witnessing colleagues and friends battle against the disease. However, unlike most people Clive has been able to and has wanted to act to hasten research efforts at finding a superior treatment.
The Clive Berghofer Cancer Research Centre is recognised as the leading centre of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The centre is trialing revolutionary cancer immunotherapy treatments on terminally ill patients, and already lives are being saved.
Costing $60 million to establish, the centre houses up to 600 scientists, 15,000 sq metres of research laboratories, and clinical wards – making it a unique one-stop research and clinical trials facility.
The trials are being conducted on approximately 100 patients with many different types of cancer such as: melanoma, lymphoma, leukaemia, multiple myeloma, brain tumours and prostate cancer. Some terminal cancer patients have been in remission for over eight years after undergoing QIMR’s experimental immunotherapy.
“The $5 million contribution made by Clive Berghofer to this research proves that individuals with vision and compassion can change the course of medical history,” said Professor Michael Good.
To have actually amassed a fortune estimated at $195 million has been no small feat for the migrant son who never finished school and admits that his reading and writing leave a great deal to be desired.
Clive has been listed on BRW’s rich list since 1993, except for one year – which he attributes to the surge of dot .com newcomers, many of whom are now off the list – permanently.
“I started with nothing but ambition and a desire to work,” said the humble Clive. “My first job was as a labourer in a sawmill in 1948. By 1973 I owned the Wilsonton Hotel and held the largest liquor license in Australia.”
While maintaining an active interest in the hotel industry, Clive’s insatiable desire to chase new business opportunities led him to try property development. In 1960 he bought his first backhoe and so began a passion that still endures today.
“I have always dedicated my business towards developing affordable housing, probably because I know first-hand how it feels to not be able to afford it,” said Clive.
The Berghofer Group is now one of the largest property development companies in Toowoomba and Clive also owns two shopping centres there, an industrial estate, and a large percentage of the town’s residential developments.
For his past work with charities, Clive has been awarded an OAM and a Paul Harris Fellowship (the highest Rotary award). He is also a Fellow of the University of Southern Queensland and QIMR.
While Clive readily admits his shortcomings in terms of literacy, he staunchly defends his financial management – the proof of which rests with his contribution towards the Cancer Centre.
“I’ve got nothing leased, nothing on hire purchase, nothing rented and nothing borrowed. What’s mine is mine and it is with great pleasure that I can give back to the community.”
Clive has also held blocks of land for newly-weds who couldn’t afford a deposit – all on a handshake, and his generosity has directly impacted on thousands of people. Now with his latest contribution to cancer research, potentially millions more will benefit in years to come.
In the eyes of medical researchers and anyone who has or will develop cancer, what Clive has given cannot be bought or measured – for hope and health have no price tags.