$4.55 million gift to encourage students into STEM

Kat Falkner and Lee-Ann Hunt

From left: Professor Katrina Falkner (Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences) and Lee-Ann Hunt, daughter of Ray McMillan, at a building site in Adelaide.

South Australian civil engineering company McMillan Constructions has given a $4.55 million gift to the University of Adelaide to help inspire and support students in financial need to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The McMillan gift – named after the company’s founder and University of Adelaide alumnus, the late Raymond McMillan (1926-2019) – will generate two new five-year scholarships in Civil Engineering each year, and establish a Teacher in Residence program to promote STEM skills and careers to high school students.

The $4.55 million donation from McMillan Constructions is one of the biggest single gifts from a private company in the University of Adelaide’s 146-year history. It will support:

  • The Raymond McMillan Civil Engineering High Achiever Scholarships valued at $25,000 per annum each for five years – awarded based on academic merit, financial need, and with a preference for supporting SA students. One new scholarship will be awarded each year.
  • The Raymond McMillan Civil Engineering Scholarships valued at $15,000 per year for five years + $5000 in year one – awarded based on financial need, with a preference for SA students. One new scholarship will be awarded each year.
  • A new Teacher in Residence program, bringing a dedicated Program Coordinator into the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences. The Program Coordinator will have high school teaching qualifications and/or experience and links into high schools. They will facilitate an engagement program which promotes STEM careers and builds curriculum-based teacher resources and student activities, involving direct collaboration with high schools.
Ray McMillan

Ray McMillan.

The Raymond McMillan story

A chance encounter with a University of Adelaide lecturer at his high school led South Australian Raymond McMillan to win a scholarship and study Civil Engineering at the University.

Born in 1926, Ray grew up during the Great Depression in a single-parent household in the southern suburbs. A bright student, he went on to study at Unley High School, and it was there he met University of Adelaide lecturer “Taffy” Farrent, who was visiting the school to promote the University’s engineering program. Inspired to apply, Ray won a scholarship and graduated with a Civil Engineering degree in 1949.

Following Ray’s death in 2019, the family business decided to make a gift to the University in his name.

Lee-Ann Hunt, a Director of McMillan Constructions and Ray McMillan’s daughter, says: “Going to university changed the course of my father’s life, and that of our family.

“Our company’s gift is aimed at giving back to the University that gave my father so much, and supporting young students to realise the full potential of their talents in STEM careers.

“We know my father, who benefited from a scholarship as a student at the University of Adelaide, would be proud to see how his company is now encouraging and supporting others like him. Many academically gifted students need additional support to be able to succeed in their studies, just as my father did.”

“Going to university changed the course of my father’s life, and that of our family.”Lee-Ann Hunt

Inspiring young STEM professionals

Professor Mike Brooks, Interim Vice-Chancellor at the University of Adelaide, says: “We are immensely grateful to McMillan Constructions and to Ray’s family for their generosity, and for their vision in helping to promote STEM skills to young people.

“The new scholarships and the Teacher in Residence program will help to propel many deserving young students into successful careers in STEM, with world-class skills that will benefit our State and the nation.

“This philanthropic gift recognises the positive and transformative impact that a university education can have on one person, and how that person can in turn have an enormous and positive impact on others. Today, McMillan Constructions is honouring their father’s legacy by providing much-needed opportunities to young people.”

Level playing field

Professor Katrina Falkner, Executive Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, says: “We know that students from low-SES backgrounds are just as capable of succeeding at university as students from more affluent backgrounds, and that was certainly the case with Ray McMillan.

“The McMillan scholarships will provide a level playing field for gifted students who are in financial need, giving them a foundation for success.

“The Teacher in Residence program, with its connections directly into high schools, will further enhance our engagement and outreach with schools in South Australia. We’re very excited about the opportunity to have a dedicated teacher working on STEM resources and activities, helping to encourage even more students to pursue STEM-based career opportunities over the course of their lives.”

Tagged in STEM, philanthrophy, engineering, gifting, support, ECMS, scholarship, scholarships, teacher in residence, McMillan