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Generosity of alumnus guarantees scholarships for Southland pupils

Friday, 11 November 2016 11:44am

Elman and Alfred Poole Scholarship recipients (left) Charlotte Bell (Health Sciences) and Annabel Smith (Sciences) are now in their second-year at Otago.

The generosity of a proud Southlander and University of Otago alumnus will provide pupils from two Invercargill schools with tertiary study scholarship opportunities for many years to come.

The University of Otago this week announced that Otago Medical School alumnus Dr Elman Poole (91) has donated a further $500,000 to the University to continue science, music and health sciences scholarships for Southland Boys’ and Southland Girls’ pupils.

University of Otago Donor and Funding Manager Jude McCracken says the donation will see scholarships continue “well into the 2020s”.

Up to six three-year scholarships aimed at rewarding academic excellence in science, health science and music are awarded each year.

“A strong interest and aptitude for science subjects and music performance are pre-requisites, but Otago also wants to help students develop skills in many areas. We want applicants, and ultimately our alumni, to be all-round achievers who value the arts, culture and scientific endeavours. Dr Poole’s generosity is incredibly valuable in furthering these goals,” she says.

Since 2011, 22 students from the two schools have received Elman and Alfred Poole Scholarships while studying at Otago.

Principals say scholarships make a difference

Southland Boys’ High School Principal and Otago alumnus Ian Baldwin says the continuation of the scholarships enhanced the school’s “unique” relationship with Otago.

“The Elman and Alfred Poole Scholarships have provided opportunities for select boys to access tertiary education at the highest level and at one of the most prestigious Universities in the Pacific region. These very generous scholarships ensure that our top academic pupils in the sciences and music have the ability to further their own learning and research at the alma mater of so many of our Old Boys and Staff.

“It also ensures that the unique relationship we have with Otago will continue years to come,” Mr Baldwin says.

The sentiment was shared by Southland Girls’ High School Principal Yvonne Browning, who says the school encourages all its pupils to seek educational opportunities that benefit the individual and add to the “well-being of society”.

“Southland Girls’ High School proudly acknowledges and appreciates the ongoing [scholarship] support that, over the last six years, has made a difference to our girls’ lives. There is a quote, “educate a woman and you educate a family” – such is the influence and power of educating women. With this principle in mind, we spend a lot of time encouraging and supporting our girls to aspire to excellence and be the best they can be. Elman's generous support of these unique scholarships makes a difference,” she says.

Read more from the principals in the Southland Times here

Student says thanks

Elman and Alfred Poole Science Scholarship recipient Annabel Smith said the scholarship helped her pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a Bachelor of Commerce in accountancy at Otago.

The prestige associated with the scholarship meant even more than the important financial assistance she will receive during her undergraduate studies.

“Knowing that I have the scholarship and am representing the Poole family gives me so much motivation and drive to keep on working hard.”

A keen sportswoman, Smith was also involved in a variety of community activities while at Southland Girls’, from raising awareness for Amnesty International to tree planting and beach clean-ups.

Dr Poole’s niece Elizabeth Poole is a member of the committee that awards the scholarships and says it is always a “revelation and a pleasure” to read about the applicants’ scholastic, sporting and leadership achievements.

“I am amazed at how well prepared the students are to move into the next phase of their education. It has been very difficult to select those for the scholarships as the competition is intense.

“I was delighted to meet a few recipients at a function at the University recently. They were so grateful for the scholarships and were very keen to learn about Elman and his connections to Southland Boys’ and Girls’ – it was a very worthwhile experience.”

(From left) Development and Alumni Relations Office Director Philip Kearney, Dr Elman Poole and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) Professor Helen Nicholson in Oxford in mid-2016.

Helping southern talent shine

Dr Poole, who turned 91 on 11 November, now lives in Oxford, England.

He remains strongly committed to providing opportunities for new generations and in recent years has established a suite of scholarships named after his late brother Alfred and himself.

In addition to the science, music or health sciences scholarships for Southland Boys’ and Southland Girls’ pupils, he established the Elman Poole Postgraduate Travelling Fellowships in clinical medicine and science. Until recently he supported a music fellowship for students at Knox College, where he was a resident between 1944 and 1947.

The scholarships and fellowships reflect his passion for science and music, his commitment to enabling “southern” talent to shine, and to helping others benefit from the experiences of overseas fellowships that he enjoyed.

“These are targeted and carefully planned initiatives that provide opportunities for young folk to go to university and to study abroad.

“They are life changing opportunities for those who are prepared to step-up and make a success of it.

“I cannot over-emphasise how rewarding it is to watch these young people going forward in the world with my help,” Dr Poole says.

Dr Elman Poole

The Poole family

Dr Poole was the second son of the late Philip Poole, who was part of an early European settler family from England.

Philip was a well-known cabinet and furniture maker in Invercargill in the 1920s. He also played in local orchestras.

Elman, born 11 November 1925, studied at Southland Boys’ High School. He graduated from Otago with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1950.

He and older brother Alfred and younger sister Ivy were born in Invercargill.

“Both parents were talented concert musicians, with Philip playing violin in the local orchestra. Consequently, the children grew up in a household where all played an instrument. In their leisure time, they spent many happy hours playing at Oreti Beach, where the family had a small crib,” Elizabeth Poole says.

The two boys went to Southland Boys' High School and Ivy attended Southland Girls', before all studied at Otago. Elman and Alfred studied medicine.

Alfred later completed postgraduate diplomas in Edinburgh and returned to Invercargill where he practised medicine for the rest of his career. Alfred’s contribution to cardiology, as well as the local community, was recognized with a CBE before his death in 2005.

Elman specialised in neurology with scholarships at Oxford University and posts in London at the Institute of Psychiatry and the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. After a Rockefeller Fellowship to the Mayo Clinic, he returned to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford – he stayed in the town after retiring from medicine.

“Elman maintains strong connections to Green College at Oxford University. In his spare time he has been an enthusiastic photographer, so much so that he sponsors a photography competition at the University.

“He has maintained strong links with the extended family throughout Southland and Otago and has always regarded Southern New Zealand as 'home'.

“He wants to provide the means to help young talented local students achieve their career goals and be successful leaders in their fields, just as he has. He is very generous with his bequests, and is very keen to keep up with how the recipients are doing,” Elizabeth says.