Life well lived

Debra Pinkerton at the 2014 Challis Bequest Society Lunch.

Debra Pinkerton at the 2014 Challis Bequest Society Lunch.

Debra Pinkerton, an alumna of the University of Sydney, has dedicated a bequest to support veterinary science and the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.

Spurred on by her childhood dream to become a teacher, Debra Pinkerton enrolled at the University of Sydney where she completed a Bachelor of Arts then a Diploma of Education. Her experience as an undergraduate was “relatively quiet”, she says, with much of her time spent working a casual job to help support her family and pursuing outside interests, such as learning the piano.

After graduating, she went on to pursue her passion of teaching English and history at high schools in Kogarah, Canterbury, Essex (UK) and Glebe. In 1985, she returned to university to complete a Master of Arts, spending her evenings attending lectures in subjects such as medieval drama. “I was at the point where I wanted someone else to teach me,” she remembers. “I wanted to be intellectually nurtured.”

Debra left teaching in 1990 to take up a job as education officer with Fairfax Media where for seven years she ran seminars for thousands of students across the state. She later accepted an opportunity to take on the role of national education manager for the 2000 Paralympic Games.

Despite having no specific knowledge of sport for athletes with a disability, she soon found it to be the most rewarding job of her career. She devised and implemented the Paralympics’ highly successful education program, which included an innovative pen-pal scheme that matched Australian schools with Paralympic athletes and led to thousands of students attending the Games.

Following the Paralympic Games, she took on a marketing role with the NSW Department of Education which saw her travel the world for 12 years recruiting international students. Her next step will be to apply for a position with the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games organising committee.

In her time working for the Paralympic Games, Debra witnessed the important role played by donors. Philanthropy soon became important to her too, with her alma mater becoming the main beneficiary of her generosity. Debra donates to a wide range of causes at the University every year, including Fisher Library, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and veterinary medicine.

She has now confirmed a bequest to the University. Half the gift will be dedicated to veterinary science, primarily because Debra has always loved companion animals – at one stage her family had five cats and two dogs – and also because she recognises the economic importance of healthy farm animals. The other half will be given to the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, reflecting a long-time concern for tackling the challenges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face.

“The reason I want to leave a bequest to the University is that I trust it as an institution and I think the money will be used wisely,” Debra says. “It’s a place for innovation, intellect, social awareness and long-term
visionary thinking.”