Australian university learns from Yale

Marketplace Staff Feb 5, 2009

Australian university learns from Yale

Marketplace Staff Feb 5, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: In Cleveland, Ohio this week, a retired school teacher left $2 million to her alma mater, Baldwin-Wallace College. In this economic fallout, it’s the kind of help every university could use. And educators in Australia want to know what they can do to get more alumni support. So they brought a group from Yale University down under to give ’em some pointers. Naomi Lewin reports.

Naomi Lewin: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — at least, that’s what Ian Chubb would love to do. He’s the head of Australian National University, the country’s premier research institution. Over bacon and eggs at the ANU campus in Canberra, Chubb laughed about his money situation.

Ian Chubb: We have an endowment of around about $150 million. It’s a micro-fraction of what the big American universities have.

For instance, Yale University has an endowment of $17 billion.

Chubb: We will never get anywhere like the U.S. system, because the Australian attitude is “the government provides.”

And he’s not kidding. At a reception, I met ANU grad John Goss. Goss loves his alma mater, but it’s not on his list of worthy causes.

John Goss: I pay my taxes, and it is from my taxes that the university should be funded.

Mark Dollhopf is director of the Association of Yale Alumni. He knows without an emotional investment, people won’t give.

Mark Dollhopf: If we don’t connect them with their head and with their heart, you’re not going to connect them with the pocketbook.

So Dollhopf brought three dozen Yale alumni to Australia to talk about why they give and projects they’ve started. ANU is just beginning to keep track of its alumni, something Yale is notorious for. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who’s a Yale alum, once joked that if Osama bin Laden had gone to Yale, the Alumni Association would know exactly which cave he was in.

Michael Kirby: The most important thing that the Yalies can teach us in Australia is to think big in giving back to our universities.

That’s Michael Kirby, a justice on Australia’s Supreme Court. He spoke about an annual conference he attends that’s funded by a Yale Law School alumnus.

When Kirby described the influence that conference has had on major international legal decisions, it really resonated with ANU alumni. Even skeptic John Goss.

Goss: Yes, I would consider donating small amounts of money to such a special project.

Australian National University is now starting several alumni programs inspired by the visiting Yalies. They hope the money will follow.

In Canberra, Australia, I’m Naomi Lewin for Marketplace.

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