“Berghofer, You Beauty!”

At 11:00 am on Wednesday morning, 7 August, a 78 year-old self-made Queensland millionaire fronted the media in Brisbane and announced that he was making a gift of $50,100,000 to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in the hopes that they might find a cure for cancer.

With Dr. Chris Davis, the Queensland Assistant Minister for Health on his right, and Professor Frank Gannon, QIMR’s Director and CEO on his left, Clive Berghofer, the labourer turned carpenter turned land developer, made the largest single philanthropic commitment to one organisation in the history of Australia.

Clive narrowly edged out Chuck Feeney’s The Atlantic Philanthropies’ $50,000,000 gift to the Translational Research Institute (TRI) in 2009, and Graham and Louise Tuckwell’s $50,000,000 gift to the Australian National University (ANU) in February of this year. Not that Clive knew he was setting a record – apparently he added an extra $100,000 to the $50,000,000 gift at the last moment to cover some additional work.

And with the $10,000,000 he previously gave to QIMR, Clive became the largest single benefactor in QIMR’s history. Their response was to rename their facility the QIMR Berghofer in recognition of his outstanding generosity.

The ageing multi-millionaire was straightforward but humble. He wowed the media with his fair dinkum, down-to-earth demeanour, telling the reporters how

  • he left school at 13 and has been happily working ever since,
  • he and his sister used to get up at 4:00 am each morning to milk the cows,
  • he works now to keep his mind and body active, and uses his income to help out worthy causes, and
  • “there’s heaps of people with plenty of money who don’t give!”

If you want to see what personal happiness looks like, watch Today Tonight’s lead story that evening (http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/celebrity/article/-/18399316/billionaires-who-give-back/#video) – it was a very, very happy Clive Berghofer running the gauntlet of appreciative scientists and lab technicians after the press conference.

I don’t think this news got much print newspaper attention outside of Brisbane (although a number of the online editions picked it up).

$50m Gift of Life Brisbane Courier Mail 07/08/2013

Was the federal election coverage too extensive to squeeze in this good story? Was the biggest single gift in our country’s history not that newsworthy? Is Queensland not considered an important part of the national giving scene? Who knows???

But I promise you that this burst of beneficence will long be remembered in Queensland, and will not go un-appreciated in places like the Channel Islands, New York City, Seattle and Omaha.

In any event, Clive was magnificent. Here’s my favourite quote of the morning:

“Some people want you to give, but they don’t give themselves.

I like to lead by example.”

Lead on, Clive!

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