If it wasn’t for the vision and generosity of the Illawarra community, who united to support the creation of a place of higher learning in their region, the University of Wollongong would not be the thriving world-class institution it is today.
A city known for its mining, engineering and steelworks, Wollongong attracted a diverse community, many of them migrants who came to Australia post World War II, seeking opportunity and the chance to build a better life. And while carving out this new life, they saw the value of higher education for future generations.
Built on philanthropy, UOW is paying tribute to its founding donors for their foresight and willingness to invest in education by launching the Born of Steel Fund – an unrestricted fund allowing the University to allocate resources to areas of greatest need.
Director of Advancement Monique Harper-Richardson says UOW’s founding donors came from all walks of life and were driven to create a university in this region to provide opportunity, particularly in steel and engineering.
“I think what inspires me most is that when you look at the founding donors list there were small businesses, there were individuals, there were community groups, there were large corporate organisations – they all came together and they coalesced around a single idea,” Harper-Richardson explains.“The Born of Steel Fund really represents that unifying idea about giving to a vision and those funds are being applied where they are needed most, whether that be critical areas of research or in student support, really people-oriented support that universities need to tackle some of the biggest issues we are facing, as well as educating the next generation.”
With our steel city origins, UOW is built on industry, strength of character and a distinctive work ethic. Born of Steel is a reflection of our community’s resilience, diversity and tenacity to thrive and harness its inner strength. It is a recognition of the region’s rich heritage and the role philanthropy has played in helping UOW to grow into the leading institution it is today.
Harper-Richardson speaks passionately about the Illawarra region and the vital role philanthropy plays in unlocking possibilities for a better world.
“Being born in this region is very dear to my heart. Lots of my family worked in steel and related industries, and so being born of steel is about being gritty, being resolute, having diversity and always looking to the future for ways in which you can improve society. It is very much in my DNA and the DNA of the University.
“For many of our supporters of this institution, they know about what it means to really get behind an idea and to support an idea – I think that’s what being born of steel is about,” Harper-Richardson adds.
Launched in June 2021, the Born of Steel campaign is the University’s flagship fund and builds on a 15-year tradition of seeking donations. UOW is once again appealing to our wider community of businesses, community groups, alumni and regular donors to mirror the philosophy of our founding donors and support UOW to continue to address society’s future challenges.
Gifts made by our donor community will be used to support students from all backgrounds to thrive and fulfil their potential, power world-changing research that is embedded in communities and kick-start innovation that benefits people locally, nationally and internationally.
“As an unrestricted fund, Born of Steel enables those dollars raised to be allocated where they can do the most good. That could be in student support – in scholarships in particular areas, new learning methods etc ... and in emerging research,” Harper-Richardson says. “I expect that what we’ll see is a different range of projects and priorities that it supports each year, because those priorities will change.
“For example, because of the pandemic, many early career researchers have left their path, so we must keep the next generation of researchers and leaders in their field coming forward because they will be the people who will solve the future problems. How we support that emerging talent is absolutely vital. That’s the great flexibility of giving to that idea, of trusting that it will go where it’s needed most.”
Harper Richardson says she is grateful for the unwavering support from the University’s supporters and for those who share the vision of our founding donors.
“I would like to extend my sincerest appreciation for your support and for your leadership in establishing this fund.
“We want this fund to be timeless, we want it to be here as long as the University is here over hundreds of years, because it matches the ideals of our founding donors.
It shows what you can do with philanthropic funds. The University is a testament to what can grow out of that level of support to create that margin of excellence.
“It’s an exciting time, it is about the University looking back to its founding days and recognising what people gave and how philanthropy is so very important in where we stand today. Born of Steel is about not only acknowledging that, but building that for the future.”
If you would like to make a gift to the Born of Steel Fund, visit ‘UOW giving Born of Steel’.