Two major transformational gifts support groundbreaking research at the University of Queensland

These are exciting times for the University of Queensland, which has secured major charitable gifts for health and research by drawing on the personal experience of its donors.

Many of you will be familiar with the recent news that actor Bruce Willis is stepping away from his long acting career after being diagnosed with aphasia, a chronic disability that affects a person’s ability to speak, understand what they are told, read information and write.

Bruce shares this diagnosis with more than 140,000 Australians with the condition, which usually occurs after a stroke or head injury. John Noble is one of those Australians, who lives with aphasia after a stroke.

“He had no numbers, no alphabet and he answered every question yes, but he had no idea what people were talking about,” his wife Bridget says. John and Bridget appear in this video that gives a deeper look into John’s life and the lives of others with aphasia.

It is understood that people with this condition often experience depression, social isolation, and challenges in their jobs, relationships, and daily lives.

Fortunately, there is a cure, and pioneering research and treatment continues to drive that forward. One institution at the forefront of this effort is the University of Queensland (UQ) and they recently received two major transformational gifts that will help them take the next big leap in responding to aphasia.

The game-changing generosity of a family with live experience

In late April, the University of Queensland inaugurated the Queensland Aphasia Research Center (QARC), which will enable researchers and clinicians leading in aphasia rehabilitation to develop innovative treatments that increase the use of technology and personalize support for individuals.

This ground-breaking initiative was made possible in part by $500,000 from an anonymous donor and a $1 million gift from the Bowness Family Foundation. Founded in 2008 by Bill Bowness AO, with his two daughters Natasha Bowness and Kelly Weyburn, the foundation focuses on three core areas: arts, culture, education, and disability. Bell considers the field of neurological disorders to be particularly personal.

“I’ve been bouncing around my whole life,” Bell says. My father had a severe stroke and as part of that he developed aphasia and could not speak. We want to help people whose lives are affected by similar issues.”

From left to right: Natasha Bownis, Bill Bowness, Kelly Weyburn

The QRC is located in the Surgery, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS), a specialist public health facility for Metro North Hospital and Health Services (MNHHS) and a collaborative community home to more than 30 health facilities, medical research institutes, universities and organizations. Universities are particularly knowledgeable in forming collaborative research relationships and QRC is no doubt one example that will shine.

The mission is being led by Professor David Copeland, Director of the Cancer Research Centre, who believes the research center will transform the journey of recovery for thousands of Australians and their families.

“The experiences and opinions of people with aphasia are central to the center’s vision to ensure that the programs we develop are purposeful and relevant,” David said.

“An eight-week treatment program called CHAT is designed for individuals and is delivered in a variety of ways, including in the participant’s home via remote rehabilitation.”

CHAT participants have already shown significant improvements in their communication, confidence, and quality of life.

“The improvement in John’s speaking after the show has been tremendous,” Bridget says of her husband.

David explains that Qatar Medical Center’s major donors are the reason the center has been able to expand its network of doctors and researchers across Australia to develop and deliver treatments that improve the lives of people with aphasia.

“These generous donations have allowed us to develop a community of more than 450 aphasic people, family members, researchers and clinicians, engage with more than 300 research participants, and work with more than 40 healthcare sites as part of our research,” says David.

College gifts can be so great, it’s sometimes hard to narrow down the impact to one’s experience. But as the quality of life begins to improve for people like John, who can now better connect with the people he loves, we are left with a clear picture of the difference that higher education philanthropy can make and the people it funds.

The University of Queensland Building for a Sustainable Future

Andrew N. Building opened.

Located within its walls is the university’s Faculty of Chemical Engineering, now equipped with laboratories and technology that will drive research capabilities most universities have not seen before.

“As shown in the recent QS World University Rankings by Subject, UQ is among the top three chemical engineering colleges within Australia, and this building will greatly enhance our capabilities to find solutions to global challenges,” says UQ Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deborah Terry AO.

The 11-storey building houses 500 square meters of teaching space and 2,000 square meters of laboratory space. It also has glass-walled research laboratories, allowing visitors to see research as it happens, and fit-for-purpose equipment to enable researchers to safely test reactors, X-ray machines, and lasers.

Thousands of students from across the university will use the building, including 600 undergraduate and master’s students and 200 research students in higher degrees.

Truly a cutting edge innovation hub – let’s take a look at who helped make it possible.

The guide is in the name

The latest jewel in the University of Queensland’s research crown is named after distinguished graduate in Chemical Engineering (1975) and global entrepreneur Andrew Liveris AO, who has provided generous support alongside his wife Paula.

Andrew and Paula donated $13.5 million to create the Andrew N. Academy.

Andrew Liveris in front of the University of Queensland’s new School of Chemical Engineering

“I spent four years at the University of Queensland studying chemical engineering and feel very strongly the impact on me,” Andrew says.

“I consider the University of Queensland as the place where I learned how to learn.

Providing this precious opportunity to learn will give students and researchers an opportunity to change the world around them, not least by tackling climate change. The College of Chemical Engineering’s president, Professor Justin Cooper-White, says energy, resources, and large-scale manufacturing have contributed significantly to carbon emissions around the world, but the work of chemical engineers can change this.

“We can use our expertise and these fantastic, world-class facilities to try and reduce the impact of these industries,” Justin says.

“Our research teams are currently working on dozens of projects that will help transform our economy into a sustainable economy that serves society for generations to come.”

skillful work

The University of Queensland team should be proud of the hard work they have done to develop the philanthropic relationships that have helped create these world-class research centers – relationships that benefit from the lived experience of donors and the gratitude of the individuals whose private lives the organization has enhanced. Benefiting from personal experiences like this is a lesson all fundraisers can learn from.

To learn more about QRC, click here.

To learn more about the Andrew N. Liveris Building, click here And here.

To read more of F&P’s coverage of UQ’s fundraising and philanthropy, click here And here.

click here To read about Bill Bones’ past charitable support to the University of Queensland.

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