IT WAS Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s extraordinary gift to Newcastle.
A year after visiting the city on “a trip of thanks” with a $26 million donation in hand, the University of Newcastle announced on Wednesday the 30 inaugural recipients of the Ma and Morley Scholarship Program.
The majority of the cohort is made up of first year students who were chosen from three selection categories, including Indigenous, educational disadvantage and academic excellence.
The remainder are current students who were selected to participate in an “enrichment program” designed to replicate Mr Ma’s 29-day visit to Newcastle in 1985. A trip to China is included in the program.
READ MORE: Friendship leads to $26m donation
The billionaire stayed with the Morley family after striking a friendship with its patriarch, the late Ken Morley, in China. He said the visit to Newcastle was “so critical” to his life.
Like Mr Ma’s fateful visit to Newcastle, at least one recipient described receiving the scholarship as “life-changing”. Others said they hoped to use the scholarship to make “small or big changes” in the world.
“It’s an avenue to give change,” said law student Odette Brown, who hopes to use the scholarship to shine a light on Indigenous disadvantage. “I want to work with Indigenous people in Australia to stop that massive over-representation of indigenous people in jail and the justice system.”
Biomedical science student Olivia Carroll said the scholarship gave recipients an opportunity to learn from the rest of the world.
“The opportunities are endless,” she said.
“I’m so grateful to have an opportunity to grow into an individual who is more socially conscious and globally aware.
“It’s realising that there’s a world outside Newcastle – there’s a world outside Australia – and appreciating what’s going on outside your direct community.”
Seeing similarities to the friendship struck between Mr Ma and Mr Morley, business student James O'Sullivan said he most appreciated working with the other scholars.
“It’s changed my life even just through the experiences – even meeting the 29 other scholars,” he said. “It was such an enlightening experience, probably an experience I’ve never had before.”
READ MORE: A remarkable and most unexpected gift
Ken Morley’s son, David, said his father would be proud to see Mr Ma’s tribute unfold.
“[It is] a beautiful acknowledgement to their friendship and pays homage to Dad’s egalitarian values,” he said.
Mr Ma’s personal message to students was to strive for more than academic results.
“Be compassionate. Be optimistic. Be humble. Believe in the power of people to change the world,” the billionaire told students.
Recipients – full list
Luisa Amosa: Bachelor of Law / Development Studies
Nathaniel Arnold: Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
Brittany Ayres: Bachelor of Social Science / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Gidail Bakini: Bachelor of Construction Management (Building) (Honours)
Sindi Bretherton: Bachelor of Nursing
Odette Brown: Bachelor of Aboriginal Professional Practice / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Olivia Carroll: Bachelor of Biomedical Science
Brent Cassidy: Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management
Jason Connor: Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management
Rosalie Connor: Bachelor of Laws (Honours) / Diploma of Legal Practice
Chezarne Cuffe: Bachelor of Development Studies
Kishaya Delaney: Bachelor of Communication / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Rachel Field: Bachelor of Psychological Science
Joanna Fu: Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine
Liam Hassen: Bachelor of Biomedical Science
Thomas Levick: Bachelor of Science (Honours)
Jasmin L'Green: Bachelor of Development Studies / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Alissa Lucas: Bachelor of Laws (Honours) / Diploma of Legal Practice
Elijah Lynch: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Environmental)
Vanessa McDonald: Bachelor of Business
Phoebe McIlwraith: Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Georgia O'Brien: Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary)
James O'Sullivan: Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Jessica Philbrook: Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Grace Roberts: Bachelor of Biomedical Science
Alyson Treglown: Bachelor of Nursing
Jessica Vickery: Bachelor of Medical Engineering (Honours)
Joshua Walker: Bachelor of Education (Secondary)
Georgia Young: Bachelor of Social Work (Honours)
Jarred Zeman: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Electrical) and Science (Physics)