The gift, made through the Jack Ma Foundation, honours a friendship and the billionaire’s personal connection to Newcastle.

While a teenager, Ma met Novocastrian Ken Morley and his family while they were on a tour with the Australia-China Friendship Society in Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou, China.

Morley became an influential figure in Ma’s life, reportedly instilling core values and a global perspective in the young entrepreneur, and the pair remained close friends until Morley’s death in 2004.

Ma, who was on hand to launch the scholarships in Newcastle, says he is “very thankful for Australia”.

“The culture, the landscape and most importantly its people had a profound positive impact on my view of the world at that time,” Ma says of his first visit to Australia in 1985.

“Alibaba was built by young people and we are committed to lifting up and empowering students so they can reach their dreams and ambitions.”

Announcing the scholarship at the University of Newcastle, Ma was joined by NSW Premier the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian MP, University of Newcastle Chancellor, Paul Jeans, and Ken Morley’s son, David.

“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 says.Generosity_Jack-Ma

Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen says the gift will have a transformational impact on the lives of students and shape the next generation of leaders by providing programs to develop key networks and friendships, as well as experience important practical training to equip them for leadership in the global environment.

“Through this remarkable friendship spanning decades, a new generation of talented students will have the opportunity to reach their full personal and professional potential,” McMillen says.

Students will be selected 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 first year, the 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.

Learn more about the Ma & Morley Scholarship Program.

Images courtesy University of Newcastle.