One of Griffith University’s most generous and enthusiastic supporters, Mr Jock McIlwain (OAM, DUniv), has passed away. He was 89.

Acknowledged as a man who helped shape the modern Gold Coast, Mr McIlwain was a fervent believer in the value and power of education.

The former engineer, developer, city councillor and Chamber of Commerce president received an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University in 2013.

Over many years Mr McIlwain and his wife Beverly formed a formidable philanthropic partnership, creating and supporting programs covering education, the arts and more to benefit the people and the city of Gold Coast.

Griffith University began its long-standing association with the McIlwains in 2005 with the launch of the Science on the GO outreach project, encouraging secondary students to pursue studies in advanced mathematics and science.

Mr Jock McIlwain side-on shot

Mr Jock McIlwain: “You never stop seeking and finding.”

“What I love about science has never changed in all these years. You never stop seeking and finding,” said Mr McIlwain in a 2013 interview before receiving his Honorary Doctorate.

“Everything you learn takes you to something or somewhere else, to some other door that needs to be opened. I like opening doors and finding what’s behind them.”

Griffith University Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Ian O’Connor, today paid tribute to Mr McIlwain.

“Every time Jock visited Griffith University he would talk about his belief in education being the key to the future,” said Professor O’Connor.

“He loved talking to the students and the academics and he matched that enthusiasm with such generous support. The University and the city of Gold Coast have lost a great friend.”

Born in Suva, Fiji, on Boxing Day in 1926, the course of John Robert (Jock) McIlwain’s life was influenced by the engineering work he observed being conducted in Fiji by the New Zealand and US militaries during World War II.

After high school he joined Fiji’s Public Works Department as a cadet engineer, then studied engineering at Sydney University before joining the Snowy Mountains Authority and becoming a leading designer on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.

He moved to the Gold Coast in 1959 and was a major figure in an era of rapid development alongside the likes of Sir Bruce Small.

Elected to the city council in 1966, a year later Mr McIlwain first advocated the need for a tertiary presence on the Gold Coast.

“A university brings maturity and depth to a city and even back then I could see what that could mean for a growing city like the Gold Coast,” he said.

In recognition of the McIlwains’ commitment to education, Griffith University established the Beverly and Jock McIlwain Award for Excellence in Science.

Furthermore, the Science on the GO-McIlwain Award for Science Education is awarded annually to Gold Coast science teachers.

In June 2015, Mr McIlwain was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the community through arts and educational organisations. That same year he was inducted into the Gold Coast Business Hall of Fame.

His wife Beverly continues Mr McIlwain’s legacy.