Len Ainsworth AM

Honorary Doctor of Science

Citation delivered by Professor Alex Frino Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Strategy) University of Wollongong on the occasion of the admission of Leonard Hasting Ainsworth AM as a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on 27 November 2019.

Chancellor, I present to you Leonard Hasting Ainsworth AM.

When Len Ainsworth inherited a small business from his father in his early 20s, few could have anticipated the international entrepreneurial empire that he would create – and the ways he would use the resulting wealth for the benefit of humanity.

Len began making poker machines to boost revenues for his dental supplies and equipment manufacturing venture, showing remarkable entrepreneurial agility to transition into a completely new line of business. This side-line endeavour quickly grew, and Aristocrat Leisure was born in 1953. Today, it is the world’s second largest manufacturer of slot machines, reaching global ascendency in its category.

At the time, expansion into international markets was relatively unchartered territory for Australian businesses. But with vision and sheer tenacity, Len prevailed where many others failed. Competing in well-established markets, he forged into America, Europe and the United Kingdom and made Australia a dominant global market player.

Though his contribution as an inventive entrepreneur is immense, Len’s impact extends far beyond industry; he is also a passionate and generous philanthropist. Over more than five decades, he has given millions to hospitals, universities and medical research. He has made transformative major gifts to Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation, UNSW, St Vincent’s Private Hospital and the Children’s Medical Research Institute, and enabled the creation of the Ainsworth Chair of Technology and Innovations to fast-track the development of treatments and interventions for childhood disabilities and illnesses. His Ainsworth Family Foundation ranked 23rd in The Financial Review’s Philanthropy’s 50 Biggest Private Givers, and in March 2017 Len became one of just a handful of Australians to join Living Pledge, committing to donate at least half of his substantial wealth to charitable causes.

After a diagnosis of what was initially thought to be incurable cancer in 1994, Len sold Aristocrat, giving significant funds to his family so that they could continue the tradition of philanthropy he had instilled in the next generation. However, after undergoing treatment, Len was declared cancer-free; rather than taking this opportunity to retire, though, he started a new business venture, Ainsworth Gaming Technology, currently responsible for the manufacture of 35 per cent of Australia’s new gaming machines. He also expanded his philanthropic giving, deepening his focus on cutting-edge medical research and higher education.

Len has been widely recognised for his contributions to industry and society, counting the Macquarie Group Foundation’s Great Australian Philanthropy Award, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Champion for Children Award, and the G2E Asia Gaming Visionary Award among his many notable recognitions. He is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Management, and was named an Export Hero in 2002. In 2018 he received one of the nation’s top honours, becoming a Member of the Order of Australia.

At 94 years of age, Len has only recently stepped down as an executive director of Ainsworth Game Technology. Still, his remarkable work ethic and tireless contribution – attributes that we both prize and strive for at UOW – show no signs of slowing.

Chancellor, Len Ainsworth’s contribution to entrepreneurship and manufacturing in Australia is immense, and his service to the community as a philanthropist is profound. It is a privilege to present Leonard Ainsworth AM for a Doctor of Science, honoris causa.