The Jack Ma Foundation, a charitable organization set up in 2014 by Alibaba Group’s founder, has agreed to give US$20 million (A$26.4 million) to fund a scholarship program at the University of Newcastle in tribute to Ma’s close personal connection to the Australian city.
The donation is the largest philanthropic commitment in the university’s history. It is also the first philanthropic contribution in Australia by the foundation.
The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will help establish a long-lasting community of scholars and provide them with a comprehensive engagement program to develop key networks and friendships to equip them for leadership roles in the global environment.
"I am very thankful for Australia and the time I spent there in my youth. The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world at that time," said Jack Ma, executive chairman and founder of Alibaba, in a statement.
When Ma was a teenager, he met Newcastle resident Ken Morley, while Morley and his family were on a tour with the Australia-China Friendship Society in Ma’s hometown in Hangzhou.
Morley went on to become a highly influential figure in Ma’s life, instilling core values and a global perspective that positively impacted Mr Ma’s future and contributed to his personal success. Mr Ma and Mr Morley remained close friends until Mr Morley’s death in 2004.
The newly created scholarship will select students based on their interest and commitment towards cross-cultural understanding, cooperation and peace, social justice and equity, fairness and ethics in entrepreneurship and industrial relations, and sustainable development, including environment, conservation and renewable energy.
The scholarship program will also focus on supporting students from disadvantaged and aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
In its initial year, the Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 new scholarships, 20 scholarships to support students throughout the duration of their degree, including access to a unique and comprehensive engagement and enrichment program, and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchange, internship or immersion activities. When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.
David Morley, who still lives in Newcastle, said the family were really happy to see Jack remember his Newcastle connection and to be honoring their dad’s egalitarian values through this generous scholarship program.
"Dad would be extremely proud of Jack’s commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world," David Morley said.
The first round of the Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will be advertised in mid-2017 for students commencing their first year of an undergraduate degree at the University of Newcastle in 2018.
This video explains the Ma-Morley friendship in full detail: