One of the Gold Coast’s pre-eminent business leaders and philanthropists has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Griffith University.
Warren von Bibra was bestowed the title Doctor of the University (DUniv) at one of this month’s graduation ceremonies, for his distinguished service to the Gold Coast community and Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics.
Mr von Bibra said it was an honour to be recognised.
“Schooling was never one of my greatest strengths – I left at 14 years and 10 months and started working for my Dad,” he said.
“I think my Dad would’ve laughed to see me become a doctor.
“He and Mum would’ve been proud, and my family are all very pleased.
“For me, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve come this far and been able to give something back.”
Mr von Bibra’s career has been marked by a desire to make a positive difference through service to others – something he attributes to his early upbringing in a close-knit family within a farming community in Tasmania.
His entrepreneurial spirit was evident at a young age. At 17, he travelled to Sydney, where he talked his way into a contract to sell Malibu longboards from his Dad’s service station.
He later expanded the family business into a thriving car dealership.
Since relocating to the Gold Coast in 1998, the von Bibra Group has grown into a large enterprise, with an annual turnover of AU$430 million, employing more than 500 staff.
“I think the secret to my success was being interested in people,” he said.
“You meet all kinds of different people, and within ten minutes, you’ve heard most of their life story.
“I always saw my role as an employer as empowering young people and give them an opportunity to shine. That’s what Griffith is about too.”
As a socially engaged corporate citizen, Mr von Bibra turned his energy and attention to what his company could give back.
Since 2013, the von Bibra Group has donated over $1.25m to local organisations, events, sporting clubs and charities.
Mr von Bibra’s commitment to the Gold Coast community extends to his long involvement with Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics.
Since 2003, the von Bibra’s have generously donated to the critical research conducted by the Institute, and were instrumental in attracting a $500,000 donation from The Honda Foundation to establish the Honda Foundation Pandemic Influenza Research Facility.
Institute for Glycomics Director Professor Mark von Itzstein AO said Mr von Bibra had been crucial supporter of the University’s research scientists and students.
“The von Bibras have been loyal, long-standing advocates of the Institute, with a special interest in supporting our research students through scholarship opportunities,” he said.
“As a consequence of their significant and on-going support, we established the Sally & Warren von Bibra Honours Scholarship Scheme in 2003, which they generously sponsor every year.
“If you do the math, that equates to eighteen years of supporting the nation’s future scientists – truly remarkable.”
Mr von Bibra said supporting the work of Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics was “an honour and privilege”.
“We are able to support them in their fight against diseases of global impact; diseases that affect and devastate so many people’s lives each day.”
“We feel confident that our financial donations are helping to shape a brighter, healthier future – a future filled with hope.”
Mr von Bibra joined more than 2,700 Griffith graduates who will attend ceremonies in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast this month.
These ceremonies are for the Graduating Class of 2020 who missed out on in-person events last year due to COVID.
Those unable to attend this month have the option to attend a future ceremony to celebrate their achievement and each ceremony will be live streamed, so absent family and friends can still be a part of the occasion.
Individual ceremonies have been capped at 420 graduates to ensure Griffith complies with COVID-Safe Plans for venues.