The generosity of leading Gold Coast developer Dr Soheil Abedian has changed the lives of Griffith University students Bec Silman and Angus Burkitt.
The Sunland Group founder and his wife Anne visited the University on Wednesday 26 October to launch the Abedian Foundation Griffith Futures Scholarships.
The original announcement was to have been for 120 scholarships over three years, beginning in 2017, for Gold Coast students who are excelling at their studies despite personal or financial hardship.
However, so moved were Dr and Mrs Abedian by the testimonies of 19-year-old Bachelor of Nursing student Bec, and 22-year-old Bachelor of Sport Development student Angus, they responded with an extraordinary gesture of further support.
As well as immediately raising the number of funded scholarships to 180, the Abedians will also:
- pay for Angus to have a much-needed hip operation in a private hospital;
- provide crucial financial support for Bec until she graduates at the end of 2017.
There was an outpouring of emotion throughout the room as Mr Abedian declared his intentions.
Bec has been supporting her father and younger brother since her mother’s death from cancer five years ago.
“It’s been so tough. Aside from losing Mum, my dad’s been unable to work due to long-term complications from a work accident,” she said. “I’ve had a number of part-time jobs, sometimes working up to 50 hours a week on top of my studies.
“I cannot thank the Abedians enough. They didn’t have to do this. But they have.”
For Angus, the financial support means he can at last have an operation to repair the femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) in which the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped.
The debilitating condition has stopped him from playing sport, including his beloved AFL, and finds him enduring pain, especially at night.
Add study commitments, financial stress and the long public hospital waiting list and the result has been physically and mentally trying.
“When Dr Abedian looked at me and started speaking, I thought he was going to say something like ‘you can do it’ or ‘follow your dreams’,” said Angus. “Instead, he has given me my life back.”
Dr Abedian is a noted philanthropist with a particular interest in education: “I have a strong belief that the children of the world are our children, and it doesn’t matter where they come from,” he said.
“I’m hopeful that by investing in our children, we are investing in the future of our city and our country. Through education, we can unite the world.”
Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said Griffith University could now help many more students whose education goals were challenged by difficult circumstances.
“The Abedian Foundation Griffith Futures Scholarships reflect the Abedians’ belief in the transformative power of education,” he said. “They are truly an investment in the future of the Gold Coast.”
Click here to enjoy an image gallery from the event.