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Josephine + Robert Shanks


Giving while living

Giving while living: a philosophy



I first visited RMIT as a schoolgirl in the late 1960s to look at the Elliott 803 computer in Storey Hall. Computers were a rarity in Melbourne then, it was very exotic. Once I finished school, I opted to enrol in computer science at RMIT. I returned to RMIT in 1980 as senior programmer in administrative computing.

After both working here for many years, we’d talked about creating a scholarship. We believe it is essential for Australia’s future that it has people qualified to the doctorate level.

Our vision for the scholarships is long term. We see our gift as an investment in the future of capable individuals and, through them, the wider community. The impact of the scholarships will be measured by the contribution recipients make in their profession and in the fields of science, engineering or technology. We further anticipate that they will realise that, as beneficiaries of philanthropy, they too can become benefactors.

Although we each have later qualifications from other educational organisations, we have an especially strong affiliation with RMIT. This is probably because our involvement with this academic community influenced the people we have become and because we admire RMIT’s mission.

The University’s motto is of enduring value: “A skilled hand, a cultivated mind” encapsulates the sense of learning with purpose which I admire.

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I enrolled in Applied Chemistry at RMIT in the mid-1960s. It widened my horizons and provided me the opportunity and encouragement to enter a professional career. The campus of the 1960s was quite different from the campus of today. The principal recreation space was the lawn in front of the State Library, and the teaching buildings (apart from buildings 1 to 7, and 9 in Bowen Street) were converted commercial buildings and workshops – one was even a former hostelry. Nevertheless, I had dedicated teachers to whom I remain indebted.

Some years after completing my doctorate I applied to lecture at RMIT, to develop a polymer science program in the Chemistry Department. I enjoyed the academic environment. While I’ve been at RMIT for a long time now, I change my teaching and research objectives progressively.

Now in the contemplative stage of life, having made adequate provision for ourselves, we looked to where we could contribute financially to make a difference.

Having been here as a student, as a teacher and researcher, I thought it would be a good idea to fund students in the longer term to learn about science and technology. I can teach and supervise postgraduate students for a certain amount of time, but funding a scholarship is my way of supporting and encouraging students into the far future.

We believe it is important to talk about your own philanthropic activity. Since we have started conversing about philanthropy we have been surprised first by how many people are silent philanthropists, and second by how many more people are not yet giving while they agonise about how they can be effective.

It is, indeed, a privilege to be able to do good for others. For us, intelligent and informed “giving while living” is the gift that keeps giving, to both recipients and donors.

The first of the scholarships was awarded just four years ago so the impact is yet to be realised. The enduring impact will be the graduation of its PhD candidates and acknowledgment by recipients, in their thesis and publications, of the scholarship. It is highly satisfying to see that already we are making a difference to the recipients.




Top: Josephine and Robert Shanks, who donated a scholarship to RMIT, in Bowen Street at city campus in Melbourne.

Photos by Katharine Dettmann

Background image: RMIT’s Swanston Academic Building.


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Support scholarships

Help create more opportunities for the next generation of RMIT students, by donating to support scholarships. The University is matching donations to scholarships up to $10 million to the end of 2015.

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