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Donor’s $3 million gift expands options for southern scholars

Wednesday 24 February 2021 2:04pm

Elman Poole and Helen Nicholson image
Dr Elman Poole with University of Otago Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) Professor Helen Nicholson, in Oxford in 2016.

A distinguished neurologist and philanthropist’s generous gift of NZ$3 million will support southern students to pursue their studies in Science, Music, Health Sciences and Engineering at the University of Otago and University of Canterbury (UC). It will also allow more postgraduate students from both universities to undertake overseas fieldwork.

Dr Elman Poole bequeathed £1.5 million (about NZ$3m) – £750,000 each to the two universities via their charitable trusts – to support undergraduate scholarships for students from Southland Boys’ and Southland Girls’ High Schools, and an increased number of postgraduate travelling scholarships for Otago and UC students.

Dr Poole, who grew up in Invercargill and graduated with a degree in Medicine from Otago in 1950, passed away in June 2019 in the United Kingdom, aged 93. The scholarships reflect his passion for science and music, his commitment to enabling southern talent to shine and his desire to give others the experience of overseas fellowships that he had enjoyed.

In an interview in 2016, Dr Poole said the scholarships were targeted and carefully planned initiatives that provided opportunities for young people to go to university and study abroad.

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

Commenting on Dr Poole’s wishes for his bequests, executor of his estate in the UK, Emerita Pilgrim, says “Elman had always told me of his desire to enable young, talented NZ scholars to fulfil their academic abilities, to achieve the highest possible professional leadership goals, with a commitment to serve their community.

“He himself received scholarships to the UK and USA which launched him onto his talented medical career path. His bequests now reflect his desire to launch NZ's talented scholars onto the same path."

Support for University of Otago

Otago’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Shelagh Murray, says the University is incredibly grateful for the wonderful gift from Dr Poole.

“His generosity has already supported many students from southern New Zealand on their journey to achieve their dreams and further their education and their interests. His bequest will add to that legacy by providing even more young people with support, helping them to reach their potential and opening new doors for our postgraduates,” says Ms Murray.

“We kept close contact with Dr Poole and enjoyed visiting him in Oxford in recent years with the Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville.”

In the last decade, Dr Poole has established three undergraduate scholarships at Otago for students of Southland Boys’ and Southland Girls’ High Schools.

Two Elman Poole Science and Music scholarships are awarded to a student from each school who is an all-round achiever with a strong interest and aptitude for music performance and science. The scholarships reward talented musicians and emerging scientists who intend to pursue degrees and careers in science, and who also demonstrate leadership and commitment to community, peers and family.

The Elman and Alfred Poole Science Scholarships are for students from the two schools who intend to pursue a degree and career in science, and two Elman and Alfred Poole Health Sciences scholarships are awarded to students who excel in science and intend to enrol in the Health Sciences First Year course at Otago. For each of the six scholarships, the students receive $5000 annually for three years.

In addition, Dr Poole and the University of Otago co-founded a postgraduate Elman Poole Travelling Scholarship in 2006, which supports PhD students in their second or third year of study, majoring in physical or biological sciences, health sciences or music, who wish to do fieldwork outside New Zealand. A varying number of the travelling scholarships are awarded each year, and each student receives a maximum of $20,000, and up to an additional $5000. Preference is given to candidates born in Otago or Southland.

The postgraduate scholarships have encouraged more than 25 students to study abroad in the past 15 years.

Support for UC

Dr Poole donated $500,000 to UC in 2016 to support undergraduate study in Engineering for students from the two Southland high schools, of $5,000 a year for three years for up to four students a year as well as postgraduate travel scholarships. His legacy will allow those awards to be offered in perpetuity and expand the subjects that Southland High School Scholars come to study at UC.

“With his generous legacy, Elman has helped to shape, change and influence the lives of many young Kiwis and students of this University,” Director of the UC Foundation Jo Dowling says.

“We kept Elman informed of the students who benefitted from his largesse and I know that he enjoyed reading the many thank-you letters he received from them. Representatives of the University of Canterbury were pleased to meet Elman in Oxford when we visited the UK, and he met with both our former Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr and our current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cheryl de la Rey.”

With members of his family and several scholarship recipients in attendance, UC planted a tree to honour the memory and generosity of the late Dr Elman Poole recently. Ms Dowling said it served as both a metaphor for the tree of knowledge and a physical embodiment of the proverb: “One generation plants the tree; the next generation enjoys the shade.”

About Dr Elman Poole

Elman Poole image
Dr Elman Poole.

Dr Poole was a son of the late Philip Poole, who was part of the early settler Poole family from England and a well-known cabinetmaker and musician in Invercargill in the 1920s.

Dr Poole studied at Southland Boys’ High School and the University of Otago, graduating MB ChB in 1950. Awarded a Nuffield Dominion Scholarship, he travelled to the UK and studied at Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1953.

He specialised in Neurology and held 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 in 1962 and set up the Clinical Neurophysiology department. He was also clinical lecturer in Neurology at Oxford from 1979 until his retirement in 1990.

His brother Alfred qualified in medicine from Otago in 1946 and played an important part in healthcare in Invercargill. Alfred’s contribution to cardiology, as well as the local community, was recognised with a CBE before his death in 2005. His sister Ivy attended Southland Girls’ High School and the University of Otago, graduating with a BA, majoring in English and History, in 1948.

His niece Dr Elizabeth Poole says both Dr Poole’s 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.”

She says Dr Poole maintained strong links with the extended family throughout Southland and Otago and always regarded southern New Zealand as home.

“He wanted 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,” Elizabeth says.

As well as the Otago and UC gifts, Dr Poole has also supported many young people in the UK, particularly from his association with Lincoln College. Reflecting his interest in music and photography, he has provided in-perpetuity funding for an annual concert programme at two colleges in Oxford, and a photography prize for Lincoln College students. The Elman Poole Music Scholarship, established in 2007, is an annual award, which allows an up-and-coming New Zealand instrumentalist to train with the renowned London orchestra, the Southbank Sinfonia.

For further information, please contact:

Margie Clark
Communications Adviser
Development and Alumni Relations Office
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 4021
Email margie.clark@otago.ac.nz

UC Communications team
Tel +64 3 369 3631
Email media@canterbury.ac.nz