An inspiring evening

On Saturday 4 May, against the stunning backdrop of Sydney Harbour, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, publicly launched INSPIRED – the Campaign to support the University of Sydney. At a black-tie dinner for more than 350 of the University’s most committed supporters at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, the Vice-Chancellor unveiled the University’s ambitious target of $600 million.

ABC presenter Adam Spencer, an alumnus and himself a donor to the University, acted as master of ceremonies, sharing with guests a glimpse of the talent and expertise from across the faculties.

Guests enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the gallery space showcasing specially selected works from recent undergraduate and postgraduate exhibitions at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning and Sydney College of the Arts. More curious guests had an up-close encounter with Shrimp, a mobile robot from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, which is more commonly used for mapping crop yield information for farmers.

Others took the opportunity to stargaze with Newtonian reflector telescopes, provided by the Faculty of Science, set up on the balcony overlooking Circular Quay and the Opera House. Students from the Conservatorium of Music dazzled unsuspecting diners by performing a flash mob opera. As the orchestra played, singers broke into spontaneous song performing the finale from Act 2 of Johann Strauss’s opera Der Fledermaus.

Attendees were treated to a three course meal, designed by Executive Chef Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant and Bar and prepared by Bayleaf Catering. Professor Steve Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, provided tasting notes on the meal, giving guests an insight into nutritional benefits of the meal and the centre’s research work.

During each course, guests were joined at their table by different academic speakers, researchers and students, who spoke informally on topics ranging from the London Paralympic Games, engineering the quantum future and Australia’s historic tobacco plain packaging law. Michelle Lim, a first year science student, danced her way through an impressive array of faculty achievements represented in an interactive multimedia performance.

In addition, guests were treated to a personal reflection by donor John Hooke – highlighting the very best of the University of Sydney community.

A highlight of the night was the announcement of three principal gifts totalling $16 million, which will each have a significant and lasting impact on a different area of the University.

Australian entrepreneur Sean Howard pledged $10 million to establish the Valerie Mary Howard Initiative to advance new research, outstanding patient care, and exceptional teaching and learning facilities at the Save Sight Institute.

An anonymous donor made a commitment to donate $5 million to create a Teacher Enrichment Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) teachers – a multidisciplinary collaboration to strengthen the confidence of mathematics and science teachers in schools Australia-wide.

Campaign Board member and longtime supporter of the University of Sydney, Michael Hintze, also pledged $1 million to launch a flagship research and development incubator with the Charles Perkins Centre to explore commercially viable applications for improving individual and population health.

As an unforgettable evening of inspiration more than 160 years in the making drew to a close, the Vice-Chancellor made a toast to the University of Sydney, inviting guests to celebrate the University’s achievements, past, present, and future.