$1 million gift of Love to ANU from fibre optics pioneer Emeritus Professor John Love
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$1 million gift of Love to ANU from fibre optics pioneer Emeritus Professor John Love

Emeritus Professor John Love wants to thank the Australian National University for having him the past 40 years.

So he is giving it $1 million.

Emeritus professor John Love with students, Jiahao Dong, Ethan Barden, Oliver Thearle , and Sara Hosseini at the ANU.

Emeritus professor John Love with students, Jiahao Dong, Ethan Barden, Oliver Thearle , and Sara Hosseini at the ANU. Credit:Rohan Thomson

Professor Love, 72, has pioneered the field of fibre optics.

But he has also always enjoyed teaching and fostered generations of young ANU researchers. So the money he has saved through enjoying "a simple life" and through the circumstance of not having family of his own, means he wants to give to future students.

In particular, he wants to target his gift to students who may suffer financial, social or health adversity through which a $50,000 five-year ANU Love Scholarship may make all the difference.

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The new scholarship will be announced on Friday, with Vice Chancellor Ian Young saying "Professor Love's gift is extraordinarily generous and will establish a scholarship that will help students reach their full potential. On behalf of the university, I'd like to thank Professor Love for his wonderful contribution."

After studying at Oxford and Cambridge, Professor Love worked at universities in California and Canada before being enticed to the ANU in 1973.

A close colleague in the field of Optics Emeritus Professor Hans Bachor described his friend of 30 years as "a true gentleman in the field" who had developed a "global fan club" through his tireless mentoring of academics around the world.

"It is not surprising he has decided to do this. While it is a big decision, his family has always been his undergrads and students so that will now continue even though he has scaled back his teaching at the ANU."

Professor Love, whose seminal 1984 text "Optical Wave Guide Theory" is still in print and has been the subject of more than 5000 international citations, said he had been influenced to start a scholarship after helping establish a memorial scholarship for a former student and the first woman to complete a PhD in photonics at ANU, Wanda Henry.

Dr Henry died at just 34 and her family wanted to assist students in their final years of photonics study.

Professor Love said his scholarship would be open to students across all subject areas, but for whom a degree at the ANU may not be a straightforward proposition despite them having the academic foundations.

"I am hoping to assist those students who can show how this money may make it possible for them to enrol at the ANU when, for a variety of reasons, they otherwise may not."

The scholarships will begin in 2016, with new winners in each subsequent year and up to five scholarship holders to be at ANU by 2020.

Professor Love said he had been fairly prudent with his finances and sought joys in simple pleasures such as train rides, model railways, bushwalking around his Flynn home of 40 years and tending to his large garden.

"Would spending $1 million going to the Bahamas fulfil me? No probably not. I describe myself as typically academic, living a fairly low-key lifestyle. I am not in it for fame and fortune. I like teaching and research and helping people."

"I've got a lot out of the ANU and now the ANU has got a lot out of me, so to speak."