The University of Melbourne has announced a handful of large gifts at the launch of its $500 million extraordinary campaign. Greg Johnson reveals who was behind the $10 million donation.

Allan and Maria Myers are the generous donors behind a $10 million gift announced at the launch of the University of Melbourne’s Believe campaign last month. The university is aiming to raise $500 million by 2017 in what will be the organisation’s largest philanthropic campaign in its 160-year history.

The Myers’ gift isn’t only the largest donation by individuals in the institution’s history; it also marks a new chapter in the family’s philanthropy. One of Australia’s top commercial lawyers, Myers was once very private about his giving yet that has change in recent years – with his appointment as National Gallery of Victoria’s (NGV) president an important turning point, which lead to a $6 million gift to NGV’s Asian art acquisition fund in 2008. Now five years on, Myers isn’t only responsible for a lead donation to the university’s campaign – he’s also the campaign board’s chairman.

“This campaign will help build on [the university’s] legacy and will ensure the university can stand tall with the greatest universities in the world, all of which have a common ambition to have a lasting and positive impact on society – be that through educating great and compassionate leaders, or meeting global challenges through research,” said Myers.

The Myers’ gift was just one of $42 million in new donations announced at the launch of the university’s campaign, titled Believe; The Campaign for the University of Melbourne. Also announced on the evening was $5 million from Financial Markets Foundation for Children for a chair of developmental mental health, plus a $10 million combined donation from The Ian Potter Foundation, Martyn and Louise Myer and The Myer Foundation for the development of the Southbank Campus.

The university is half-way to its goal, having raised $249 million towards the $500 million target since 2008. Melbourne’s campaign launch comes just weeks after a similar campaign launch by the University of Sydney, which announced it has raised $317 million towards its campaign goal of $600 million.

Myer is joined on the campaign’s 20-member board by a distinguished list of businesspeople and philanthropists, including: Leigh Clifford AO, Martyn Myer AO, Elizabeth Alexander AM, Sir Roderick Carnegie AC, Sir James Gobbo AC CVO, Mr Hugh Morgan AC, Lady Potter AC and Mrs Jeanne Pratt AC.

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