Formed in 1981, Friends of the University consists of retired university staff as well as community members wanting an involvement with the University, who may not necessarily have another point of connection.
The group’s aims include fostering an awareness of the University and its place in the community, as well as fundraising for projects including the Hunter Tapestry in the Great Hall, the Don Morris Walk, the Wetlands Pavilion and student scholarships in Fine Art, Music, Nursing and Sport, as well as two Honours scholarships and an Open Foundation scholarship.
Friends’ secretary Judith McLaughlin has watched Friends of the University grow since she joined in 1987, with currently around 70 financial members. According to Ms McLaughlin, members have a genuine love of the University and have a real interest in supporting students. They follow the progress of their scholarship winners, and feel a part of their students’ success.
Friends of the University has raised almost one million dollars since its inception with most of the money acquired through the group’s Book Fairs, held every odd-numbered year. Through sales of second-hand books, rare books, records, CDs and sheet music the fairs, running since 1983, consistently raise more than $60,000 per event. Planning is already underway for the next fair in mid-2015, with a core group of volunteers working tirelessly to ensure its success.
In August 2013 the Friends hosted a Collectors’ Choice exhibition at the University Gallery, reviving the iconic art exhibition instigated by the renowned arts patron Anne von Bertouch. Like its predecessor, the exhibition seeks to provide quality art at affordable prices, and features the best of contemporary Australian art including many artists from the Hunter region. Friends of the University will continue to run an art exhibition each alternate year to raise funds for student scholarships.
The group also holds a ‘lunch with a writer’ three to four times per year that is open to the community.
Friends of the University is open for all to join, with no joining fee, just an annual subscription of $10 for individuals and $15 for households. Membership forms are available online at the Friends of the University website.