Businessman, philanthropist and Canberra Grammar old boy Terry Snow will give $8 million to his former school to build a striking new Asian century centre, which will focus on languages, education and engagement in the region.
The Snow centre for education in the Asian century will be completed by mid next year - transforming the historic entrance of Canberra Grammar with a new modernist building that will house 12 classrooms for Asian language, geography, history, economics and culture classes.
The donation is one of the largest single gifts to an Australian school. Melbourne Grammar received a $10 million bequest from old boy and pastoralist Jack Morrow in the 1990s.
Canberra Grammar's new facilities will include an indoor and an outdoor amphitheatre for lectures, an exhibition area, open learning spaces, student collaboration pods and video conferencing facilities to link lessons with schools and universities around the world.
Principal Justin Garrick said the centre would also be the launch pad of the school's aspiration for all students to spend part of their education in Asia in the years ahead.
''We are educating the first truly global generation. The students we teach now will live, study and work all over the world and especially in Asia, more than any generation before them … it's time for Australian school education to move past the rhetoric and get serious about engaging with Asia if our children are to flourish in the century ahead,'' he said.
Dr Garrick said ''vital to the premise of the centre'' was a commitment it would also benefit the Canberra community - and Australian education generally - through being opened for public lectures, summer schools and as a specialist facility for professional learning, educational research and teacher training.
It will host a unique centre for research and development in 21st century teaching and learning - to be run in collaboration with the Australian National University's college of Asia and the Pacific and the University of Canberra's faculty of education.
Mr Snow, whose Canberra Airport Group has been responsible for a $250 million development of the Airport as well as the Brindabella Business Park, donates about $3.5 million each year to mainly local charities through the Snow Foundation.
He and his brothers attended Canberra Grammar, as did his children and, currently, his grandchildren.
Dr Garrick and Mr Snow toured the Red Hill campus late last year, with Dr Garrick asking the developer's advice for upgrading aspects of the ageing campus. It was then Mr Snow drew him into revealing his ''ultimate ambition'' for the school.
''It was my dream to make this school a national leader in Asian education and I was planning on spending the next 10 to 15 years achieving it bit by bit,'' Dr Garrick said.
Mr Snow said the ideas struck him immediately as ''something exciting and necessary'' and he believed Dr Garrick had the drive to make it happen, ''so I decided to turbocharge things with an $8 million donation''.
''All my life I have believed if you want to make it happen, you just go and do it,'' Mr Snow said.
''The vision Justin has outlined is not just about teaching Chinese language but fully embracing and engaging with Asia and the wider world. Grammar has everything going for it: access to intelligent students, local universities with a very strong Asian studies core, situated in Canberra with a community that is more externally focused because it is the national capital.''
Last year just 64 non-Chinese native speakers undertook Chinese in the NSW Higher School Certificate - of these, seven were from Canberra Grammar and two came equal first, while another came fourth in the state. Six of the seven are now studying on scholarships at Chinese universities.
Mr Snow said these results showed Canberra Grammar had proven national leadership potential in the area.