Cynthia Brew knew that even the smallest things can make a difference to someone’s life.
She also knew that supporting others to achieve their goals has a ripple effect that helps to change the lives of many more.
Thanks to her generosity, each year four students from UOW’s Faculty of Social Sciences will receive a $1,500 scholarship to support their studies and enable them to study in a different country and culture. Another four, $1,000 cash prizes will be awarded each year to students who demonstrate how they have transferred their learning into activities that benefit the community.
In discussing the impact of the scholarships, Professor Glenn Salkeld, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Science, observes, “An opportunity to study and work overseas opens the minds of students, and will have an immediate benefit to the young people who many of them will work with in the future.
“As a teacher, Cynthia knew that opportunities could change people’s lives and I believe these scholarships and prizes will honour her gift to the University of Wollongong.
“It’s not just about the academics but about how our students apply their learning to contribute to their communities,” Professor Salkeld says.
Helping others was always part of Cynthia’s life, whether it was in her career as a physical education teacher or through her passion for sport and adventure. As a new graduate from Sydney University’s Teachers’ College, she was lucky enough to go to the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and, later in life, she volunteered at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“As an independent woman capable of supporting herself through professional work, Cynthia could follow her interests of travel, sport, the arts and history,” says Susan Dobinson, her second cousin.
“She travelled widely and extensively over her life – she is the only person I know who has been to Tashkent. One of my favourite photos is of Cynthia sitting beside two of those inscrutable ancient Easter Island statues.”
In 1967, Cynthia became a member of the National Trust (NSW) which is now another beneficiary of her generosity. Her bequest will help the Trust to continue to transform the lives of children in NSW through an education program designed to capture their imagination as they learn the significance of heritage to our communities.
Cynthia’s teaching career took her around Australia, including Newcastle, Bathurst, Sydney and Tasmania. Even when she retired from the classroom, she didn’t stop helping others reaching their potential. Nor did she stop her own educational journey.
In 1980, she completed a Research Master of Arts from UOW and continued her association with the University through her work with migrant families as a volunteer in the Adult Migrant English Service.
Cynthia never slowed down. She continued to travel, play golf and bowls, and contribute to her community. She was a Meals on Wheels volunteer and, for many years, a volunteer guide at Don Bank Museum in North Sydney. She participated in many clubs and associations – the Bush Club, Historic Houses Trust, the North Shore Historical Society, Geographical Society of NSW and Trumps Bridge Club. Cynthia was a Justice of the Peace until her death in 2017.
“She was a one-off, and independent to the end,” Ms Dobinson says.
She wouldn’t accept much help but was always helping others.
She had a passion for education and completed two Masters degrees in her adult life. She was a keen scholar and she decided to include three universities to which she had a connection, as well as other organisations, as bequests in her will.
“She was very generous in her bequests. She had a lot of empathy with children, especially those who were experiencing difficulties in their lives. She wanted to help people and was very community-minded which is why she wanted to be able to continue to make a difference.”