Billionaire philanthropists Graham and Louise Tuckwell have announced a commitment to the ANU worth about $200 million over 30 years to fund a major expansion of the Tuckwell Scholarship program through the building of two new halls of residence on campus, possibly on the site of Bruce Hall, at a cost of $100 million over two years.
Mr Tuckwell, who is Canberra-born, lived at Bruce Hall while studying at the ANU as an undergraduate, and said that he wanted to ensure more ANU students were able to live on campus “to gain from a total university experience”, whether the site chosen was that of Bruce Hall or not.
“From our point of view, what we want is an iconic residence, with large rooms, we want something that people really want to be in,” he told the RiotACT.
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“If this can help Bruce Hall remain the iconic hall of residence then I’m delighted.”
ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt said a decision had yet to be made about the site for the new residential halls, which would house 400 students once complete.
“We’re still consulting with the community and that consultation will continue in the months to come,” Professor Schmidt said.
“It’s really important for us to get the right place, to reach the vision of the Tuckwells, this iconic sort of residence. Our preferred site, looking at it, is the Bruce Hall [site]. It’s an iconic location of the university, so it really fits his vision. But it’s an ongoing conversation.”
Bruce Hall was the first undergraduate residence built at The Australian National University in 1961. A Facebook page devoted to preserving the existing buildings entitled Save Bruce Hall has attracted 879 likes. A post on the page this afternoon said:
“This is an unspeakably generous donation to the ANU, from a Bruce Hall family, to fund the construction of two new Halls of Residence. We are still in the process of finding out what the impact on Bruce Hall will be – stay tuned for updates.”
The organisers have also set up a petition on Change.org, which had attracted 1141 supporters when we visited this afternoon: www.change.org/p/vice-chancellor-save-bruce-hall-from-demolition
The Tuckwell Foundation was set up with a $50 million commitment in February 2013. Revenue from the new halls of residence will fund the scholarship program in perpetuity. It is anticipated to provide around $200 million of funding for the program over the next 30 years.
The contribution from the Tuckwells will also fund a $10 million, purpose-built Scholars House facility, dedicated to Tuckwell Scholars and for the administration of the program, which currently provides its recipients with $21,700 a year for up to five years of full-time undergraduate study. The program makes offers to 25 new scholars a year.
Pictured are Graham and Louise Tuckwell at University House this morning, and the happiest Vice-Chancellor in the world, Professor Brian Schmidt, after the announcement. Photos: CHARLOTTE HARPER