26 June 2017
Roy and Nola Thompson were named the Queensland Higher Education philanthropists of 2017 at the recent Queensland Community Foundation’s philanthropy awards in Brisbane.
While the Thompsons have been generous supporters of several Sunshine Coast organisations, this award recognises their extraordinarily generous support for the University of the Sunshine Coast over the past six years.
The Thompsons’ first donations to USC in 2011 and 2012 went to about 150 Study Support Bursaries, which provide regular payments to students experiencing financial pressures to enable them to complete their degrees.
In looking for a way to continue this type of support for USC students, Roy and Nola offered to donate half the funding for a multi-level carpark at USC, with an agreement for funds raised from the carpark to go towards student scholarships and bursaries.
This project has already supported 69 students and is expected to provide more than $29million to more than 1,000 students over the next 50 years.
Roy and Nola then became interested in what USC could do to help deal with the challenge of mental health on the Sunshine Coast. The result was the donation of a $7million building that now houses the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute.
This integrated facility is teaching Master of Psychology programs, will provide about 6,000 clinical sessions with patients in its first year, and is building its research platform to help uncover solutions to some of the most vexing mental health issues.
The Thompsons’ commitment to giving back to the Sunshine Coast is what is driving their philanthropic partnership with USC.
“The Sunshine Coast has been very good to my family and I think it is important we give back,” Mr Thompson said. “I firmly believe one of the best ways to do this is by supporting the university that can do great things for our community.
“USC is going to be around for a long time, and if I can help them to help kids get an education and a good job, or to care and find cures for mental health for young, old or returned service people, then that is what I am going to do.”
USC Development Office Director Russell Ousley, who works with donors to help advance university outcomes, knows full well the impact the Thompsons are having on the university and the region.
“While USC is committed to making a positive impact in our local community, sometimes the key to achieving this is the resource that philanthropists can bring. And that is what the Thompsons have done,” Mr Ousley said.
“To have people like Roy and Nola in our community is truly a blessing. Their love of the Sunshine Coast is boundless and they are showing it in the way they are giving back.
“To make extraordinary donations like the one that built the carpark and locked in student support for half a century is visionary in its nature.
“There would not be a mental health institute providing clinical services and searching for cures here on the Coast if they had not enabled it through their donation of $7million.
“We had tried for five years to secure funds for this project from various governments, but it only turned from an idea into reality when Roy and Nola endorsed the vision and donated the building.”
“That donation has helped prompt the Federal Government to commit $5million to the Thompson Institute. This is a real example of philanthropy leading the way in creating and leveraging significant social investment in our region.”
Mr Ousley said Mr Thompson remains focused on creating new developments that will make additional positive impacts on in the Sunshine Coast.
“On the day the Thompsons were named the Queensland Higher Education philanthropists of the year, Roy quietly provided a cheque to Professor Jim Lagopoulos, Director of the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute, to help purchase an MRI machine that is vital for the mental health research work of the Institute,” he said.
“Roy then turned the conversation to the next project he would like be involved in.”
— Terry Walsh