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Making a difference through funding

Monday 30 September 2019 3:05pm

Philanthropy in higher education is not new. Many educational institutions were founded on philanthropy, whether this was by royal patronage, civic leaders or individual and public support.

In recent years’ universities have needed to diversify their income streams to ensure long-term financial sustainability. This may take many forms, from developing commercial activities to increasing research contracts and, of course, philanthropy.

The University of Otago, like many leading educational institutes, is dependent upon private funding to support some of its research and teaching. In fact the University’s establishment was strongly supported by the Presbyterian Synod. Just this month the synod provided seeding funds for a new lectureship in Chaplaincy Studies at the University. The Otago and Southland Education Fund has endowed $300,000 for the new lectureship, which is to be funded at a rate of $60,000 per year.

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Celebrating Presbyterian Synod funding towards new lectureship, Reverend Nyalle Paris, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, Associate Professor Christopher Holmes, and Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville QC

There are many recent examples of the support being provided to the University by alumni, organisations and individuals. This support enables universities to build on their strengths, enhance student experience, extend research programmes and create the best possible environments within which people can excel.

Philanthropy also builds networks of friends and supporters who contribute to the long-term wellbeing of the university in ways beyond their financial contribution.

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Harraway's 1867 Visiting Professor Rickey Yada

Dunedin’s iconic Harraway and Sons Ltd funds an annual visiting professor through its Harraways 1867 Visiting Professor fund. This year Vancouver based Professor Rickey Yada visited Otago to lecture on food science.

One of our most distinguished alumni, businessman and philanthropist Graeme Hart, and his wife Robyn, made the largest donation in the University’s history late last year. They have donated $10 million towards a new dental teaching facility in South Auckland.

Alumni of University of Otago in America, Inc. (AUOA), is a non-profit US-based alumni group. It has several funds including the Sir Murray F Brennan Fund, in honour of one of our most distinguished alumni. This fund will support the Otago University Rowing Club and Health Science students who row for the University. The Karen Chelcun HDGC Fund is to fund transitional cancer research with a focus on Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer. The MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship funds PhD and DClinDent students to study in the USA for a year.

The work of Professor Parry Guilford and his team at the University of Otago has received a major funding boost with a $50,000 donation from the Hugo Charitable Trust to support their work on circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and cancer research.

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Dr Kenny Chitcholtan

Dr Kenny Chitcholtan at the University of Otago, Christchurch, has received funding from Cure Our Ovarian Cancer ($75 000) for a pre-clinical (laboratory) project using organoid cancer models in low-grade serous carcinoma. Preclinical research is an important building block to finding new treatments. Dr Chitcholtan hopes that organoids could provide a much better model of cancer behaviour to predict drug response in low-grade serous carcinoma than the cell lines that are currently used.

To give to Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, visit

In another major funding effort Port Otago has recently donated a 350m strip of land on the Dunedin waterfront for Otago’s Sustainable Futures Initiative. The 0.45 hectares of land on Fryatt Street is on the site of Port Otago’s former wharf-side sheds, along the north side of the Steamer Basin near to the Customhouse. It is hoped that this project will be supported as part of the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.