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Alumni News

Pūtea Tautoko responds to student need

Duncan Lucy and Victoria
Postgraduate students Duncan Coutts and Victoria Sugrue with their daughter Lucy: “With both of us living off our scholarship stipends, knowing that the fund was there… took a lot of stress off the immediate worry of would we be able to pay our rent, our power, food.”

The stories started in March. Many students were struggling financially due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were facing additional costs and the loss of part-time work, which they relied on for vital income. For others, financial support from their families had greatly reduced. Some postgraduate students were facing extra tuition costs in order to extend their studies so they could complete their courses.

In response to the emerging need, the University acted quickly. In April, it launched Pūtea Tautoko, which translates as “financial support”. The University committed an initial $1.5 million to the fund, making it the largest hardship initiative in its history.

At the time of its launch, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said the fund was an important way for the University to provide meaningful support for those students facing the greatest need.

“The pandemic has created unprecedented levels of hardship within our student community and Pūtea Tautoko is a critical part of Otago’s response to support students through this challenging time.”

Reaching out to the wider University community to seek support for the fund, she said “we are running out of words to describe the impact this virus has had on our community, our country and the world. But we have also seen extraordinary kindness and generosity as a result and I believe this fund will be a way for our community to express our support for students in a concrete way.”

The response was immediate. The University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) led the announcement of the fund, emailing a letter from the Vice-Chancellor to all alumni and friends. In the first hour $12,000 was raised and, by the end of the first week, more than $95,000 had been donated.

In the following months, the University community continued to respond generously to the needs of the students. By the end of September, 714 alumni, friends, staff, current students and parents had donated more than NZD$408,000 to the fund. More than 388 donations have come from first-time donors to the University.

“The response to the hardship fund from the University community has been extraordinary and heart-warming,” says Professor Hayne. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity shown by our alumni and friends, staff, students and parents. The way they have reached out to help makes it possible for so many of our most vulnerable students to receive the support they need.”

Professor Hayne has also donated 20 per cent of her salary for six months, with similar commitments from other senior staff; University Council members have donated 20 per cent of their Council fees for six months.

DARO Director Shelagh Murray says Pūtea Tautoko is a practical way people can make a difference, by helping to ensure the pandemic does not disadvantage a vulnerable group at a critical time in their lives.

“The response from our alumni and friends to help ease the impact of the pandemic on our students is a wonderful expression of generosity from the heart of our Otago community,” she says.

With further funding received from the government, Pūtea Tautoko now totals $3.5 million. By early October, approximately $3.0 million in grants had been made to support more than 2,000 students.

The fund is helping students cover their utility and electricity bills, accommodation costs, travel costs back to campus, essential groceries and toiletries. Postgraduate research students have received tuition fees rebates and scholarship extensions.

Students from across the University community are being supported by the fund – from international students, to first-year undergraduates, to final year PhD students. Around 80 per cent of grants have been allocated to domestic students, and 20 per cent to International students.

For postgraduate students Duncan Coutts and Victoria Sugrue, the financial support they have received from the fund has meant Duncan has been able to continue with his MSc in Anatomy and they have been able to pay the bills over winter.

Duncan received a two-month extension for his scholarship stipend, while the couple, who have a one-year-old daughter Lucy and are expecting another baby at New Year, also received a contribution towards living costs.

“With both of us living off our scholarship stipends, knowing that the fund was there, that there was somewhere we could go to for support, took a lot of stress off the immediate worry of would we be able to pay our rent, our power, food,” says Duncan. “It made it a lot easier at a very stressful time, especially when we have a wee one to care for as well.”

Victoria, who is studying for a PhD in Anatomy, says the biggest help was receiving the extension to Duncan’s stipend, because if he had needed to extend his study without getting any funding it would have been very stressful, and he may have had to finish up and find a job to pay the bills.

On receiving support from the fund, many students have responded with words of thanks:

“I cannot thank you enough for the grant I received today. I feel so privileged to not only have the opportunity to apply to the hardship fund, but to receive financial means to support me in completing my final semester at University. The grant has already eased some of my financial stresses, where I can spend less time worrying about money and more time on study. I am truly, truly grateful.”

“Ngā mihi nui to the student relief Pūtea Tautoko fund. I am absolutely grateful for your support.”

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. This is going to be a huge help to me and my whānau.”

Donors too have attached notes to their contributions, explaining why they have chosen to support the fund. Alumna Nicole Warren says:

“I don’t want students who have worked so hard to be at university, or were given a life-changing opportunity to attend university, to have that taken away from them by factors outside their control.”

One of many staff members to donate to the fund, Professor Craig Rodger says:

“In my life I have been an undergraduate and postgraduate student at Otago, and now a staff member. I know financial pressures can have a big influence on a student’s life when they should be studying – the scale of the COVID disruption is far bigger than anything which occurred in my lifetime. Knowing what a difference some financial help can make, I felt compelled to help today's students by donating to the hardship fund.”

All students are eligible to apply to the fund. Applications are considered by several panels, all including student representation. The panels robustly assess hardship, using tools the University already has to assess applications for existing hardship funds and for needs-based scholarships. Significant ongoing demand is expected for 2020 and the fund will continue to operate in 2021 as well.

To contribute to Pūtea Tautoko please go to the secure donation page:
Pūtea Tautoko

Professors cycle for students

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie, together with Professors David Lont (Accountancy and Finance) and Gerry Closs (Zoology) have turned an annual group cycle tour from Dunedin to Nelson in November into a fundraiser for Pūtea Tautoko, with its own dedicated Givealittle page.

Professor Blaikie says it is a logical way to help “students who are trying to hang in there – completing their programmes, remaining in study. They’re a tenacious group that needs support, so anything we can do to help them is a good thing.”

A legacy of excellence

Quad with students

Writing your Will, or updating it, is an inspiring time. It offers you the opportunity to make the type of gift you always wanted to be able to make. A Will enables you to plan to safeguard the future of family and friends, and also to further your philanthropic interests.

From its earliest days, the University of Otago has benefited from philanthropic gifts. With the generous help of alumni and friends who left a provision in their Wills, Otago has been able to advance quality education and gain world renown for both scholarship and research. Such generosity has consistently contributed to academic excellence.

Chairs, lectureships, scholarships, buildings, libraries, sporting facilities, special collections, research programmes and community outreach programmes have all been supported and funded by income from bequests.

Each gift is a legacy: a unique, personal and enduring contribution to the University. It is a gift that passes forward, ensuring that future generations have the resources and opportunities they need to be successful and to make a difference.

For over 150 years, our national and international communities have been enriched as University of Otago’s staff and students have led the way in innovative thinking, research, creativity and learning. You too can contribute to this.

We invite you to share our vision and consider leaving a bequest to the University of Otago Foundation Trust. This special Foundation has been established by the University to receive and administer bequests and donations. The terms of the Trust ensure that the University gains the full benefit of all gifts made and that the wishes of donors are fully observed.

All endowed gifts, whether modest or large, have lasting benefit. Leaving such a legacy will enhance the University’s future and, through its influence on students and society, the future of generations to come. Such gifts keep alive the memory of those to whom they were dedicated and link the name of the donor to the University in perpetuity. Any and all gifts can be a way for you to honour someone living or the memory of someone who has died.

You will want to think carefully about your legacy to the University of Otago. We urge you to discuss your Will, or a codicil to your Will, with your solicitor and your family (if applicable) and decide how you want your legacy to be used by the University.

In making your decision, you have many options open to you, including leaving:

  • an exact sum of money or a percentage of your estate
  • property (home, bach/crib, land)
  • works of art, books, etc.
  • stocks and shares
  • the residue, or part of the residue, of your estate after all other specific legacies have been met
  • a contingent bequest – make a gift dependent on specific conditions.

In leaving a legacy to the University of Otago, there are also options in how it can be used by the University.

A general purpose legacy – an unrestricted gift.

You could assist the University of Otago in five key areas:

  • scholarships/student support
  • community outreach
  • teaching and research
  • buildings/facilities
  • libraries and collections.

The needs within these areas vary widely from year to year. Changes in the funding of students may mean that assistance by way of scholarships is required to ensure that there is equitable access to the University, or that books may be purchased for the library, or that teaching facilities may be updated. The development of a key piece of medical or scientific research may depend crucially on the purchase of new and expensive equipment. A general purpose legacy to the University of Otago gives the University the flexibility to respond quickly to new and changing circumstances and, for that reason, is of immense value.

Or: A specific purpose legacy – a designated gift.

You may have a particular affinity to a student organisation, a school, department or centre, a student club, or an area of study or research.

You can also choose to make your legacy an endowed or current-use fund.

Both unrestricted (general purpose) and restricted (specific purpose) gifts can be endowed or create current-use funds. Endowments, also known as permanent funds, are designed to make annual distributions, preserving the capital, to support specific objectives. In contrast, current-use gifts are not permanent and the principal can be used all at once or over time.

We hope that those who have had the advantage of an Otago education, and those who recognise the invaluable benefits the University has bestowed on the community for more than 150 years, will consider supporting the University of Otago by including a bequest in their Wills.

In all of these cases, the Director of Development or the Bequest Manager will be happy to discuss, in confidence, with you or your representative, your requirements in making a specific purpose legacy, or to develop other possibilities. We are committed to maximising the benefit of your legacy while, at the same time, ensuring that your wishes are fulfilled.

Thank you for considering to assist the University of Otago in this way.

If you have made, or you intend to make, a bequest to the University, we would greatly appreciate you informing us by returning the interest indication form on this page.

We would like to acknowledge your generosity, and will understand and respect any wish for anonymity.

Also, a sample codicil form is available on request. This can be used for a more straightforward bequest. Please seek legal advice and, when completed, send us a copy.

All donations to the University of Otago Foundation Trust made within New Zealand are tax deductible up to the maximum set by the Inland Revenue Department. The University of Otago has registered charities in the UK and the USA. If you are living outside New Zealand, please contact a solicitor in your country of residence for advice on making a bequest.

For further advice, or to discuss in confidence your particular circumstances, please contact:

Murray Lopdell-Lawrence
Bequest Manager
Development and Alumni Relations Office
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
Tel 64 3 479 5286

20Twenties awards celebrate young graduates

The University of Otago is delighted to announce the winners of the inaugural  20Twenties awards, celebrating the outstanding achievements of our youngest alumni.

Hitaua Arahanga-Doyle: in recognition of leadership, mentorship of undergraduate and postgraduate students, and of his higher studies.

Lisa Blakie: for her contribution to creative and ethical video game development.

Thomas Devine:  in recognition of his leadership as Kaiāwhina Māori, mentorship of younger students and of pursuing higher studies.

Sinead Ford: in recognition of extensive leadership and volunteer work.

Emily Fry: for her contribution to the field of digital technologies and their security implications.

Sargam Goundar: for her contribution to climate change initiatives and in recognition of her leadership.

Martin Hannah: for his contribution to child and youth development.

Francisco Hernandez: in recognition of his leadership of climate change initiatives.

Abby Howells: in recognition of her success as a comedian, actor, improviser and writer.

Pinky Lal: in recognition of her extensive volunteer and leadership work.

Bethany Lomax: for her contribution to space research.

Sophie Mathiesen: for her contribution to science communication.

Aidan Meyer: in recognition of scientific curiosity for the betterment of the community.

Jo Mohan: in recognition of her entrepreneurial spirit to better the environment.

Sophie Oliff: in recognition of leadership and volunteer work in the health sector.

Daryl Pupi: for his contribution to health and well-being through leadership and innovation of nutrition programmes.

Georgia Robertson: in recognition of leadership in a non-profit organisation that benefits education projects.

George Taiaroa: in recognition of research work in response to Covid-19.

Georgia Thomson-Laing: in recognition of research into aquatic health for the betterment of community health and for her commitment to mentoring.

Kawiti Waetford: in recognition of his success as a performer and for commitment to rangatahi.

Our 20Twenties winners will be profiled on the Development and Alumni Relations website.

Te Korokoro o te Tūī hosts Court of Benefactors

2020 10 13 Court of Benefactors2
University Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville QC addressed the Court of Benefactors’ annual reception, attended by around 40 guests.

Around 40 senior staff and members of the Court of Benefactors of the University of Otago attended the Court’s annual reception in October.

The Court of Benefactors was established in 2006, with the aim of ensuring major donors are kept informed of developments at the University. A general guideline for eligibility to the Court is a donation of $1 million or more and members include trusts, foundations, organisations and individual donors.
New members admitted to the Court in 2020 are: Dr John and Mrs Susan Ward; the Estate of J. A. Bell; and Port Otago.

Dr Ward was Chancellor from 2009 to 2017 and Chairman of the University of Otago Foundation Trust Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2019. He has facilitated many major donations to the University. In addition, Dr and Mrs Ward have personally supported various projects including the establishment of the John F. Ward Southland Entrance Scholarship; support for research in the consequences of pre-term birth; the Chair of Earthquake Science; and support for research undertaken into brain health.

The late Dr John Arnaud Bell, a graduate of the University of Otago School of Dentistry, bequeathed $1.56 million to the University. This bequest will be held by the University of Otago Foundation Trust as an endowment to provide ongoing funding for a Professorial Chair in Oral Biology in the School of Dentistry. The Chair will be known as the John Arnaud Bell Chair in Oral Biology and a refurbished lecture theatre in the Faculty of Dentistry will be named the John Arnaud Bell Lecture Theatre.

To mark the University’s 150th anniversary in 2019, Port Otago gifted the University 0.45 hectares of harbourside land, which in the short-term will be used as a recreation space. Over time, this strategically-located property will be used to enhance Otago’s education, research, and outreach efforts.

This year, the Court of Benefactors’ function was held in Te Korokoro o te Tūī, the new Performing Arts facility and included performances by music, dance and theatre students. In addition, members gathered for dinner and to hear speeches from the Chancellor Dr Royden Somerville QC, Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Humanities Professor Tony Ballantyne.

2020 10 13 Court of Benefactors