Overcoming adversity through education


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There may be generations between them, but retired civil engineer Richard Smith (BE (Civil) ’61) and University of Sydney student Alex Gibson both understand the value of education in overcoming financial adversity.

Richard had a long career in the housing and commercial construction industries, but he came from modest beginnings – his own family struggled financially.

Despite the family’s challenges, his mother always encouraged her children to complete their education. She offered to pay for Richard’s first year of tuition, providing he got a scholarship for the second year.

“It was because of my mother’s immense sacrifice that I managed to attend university,” says Richard, who later secured a Commonwealth scholarship then a cadetship with the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.

To ensure his mother’s loving legacy continued, Richard and his wife Robyn established the Frances Marion Smith Scholarship in Civil Engineering in 2014. It supports talented students studying civil engineering at the University of Sydney.

The scholarship is based on academic merit, with preference given to those who demonstrate financial need or medical disadvantage. Alex Gibson is the inaugural recipient. Coming from a rural community and a single-parent family, the scholarship is hugely beneficial to Alex and her family.

“I am so grateful for this opportunity,” Alex says. “The scholarship has helped immensely. I hope that I will have the chance to work on, or even lead, large-scale collaborative projects in the future.”