His name’s on several international rich lists and he commands a business empire worth $30 billion.
But Graham Tuckwell says he lived an ordinary suburban upbringing in O’Connor for the first 20 years of his life. He credits his education – at Turner Primary, Canberra High, and, most transforming, the Australian National University – with arming him intellectually and socially for life as a global tycoon.
If you’ve never heard his name, its partly because he is a notoriously private character who will not discuss his wealth or family life in public. Or perhaps it is because his particular brand of business was to pioneer electronically traded funds and exchange traded commodities – a complex way of buying and selling securities for commodities such as gold through the stock exchange. Hardly Telstra shares for mum and dad investors.
With his company ETF Securities bringing in some $120 million a year in revenue, Mr Tuckwell, 56, decided to do something meaningful with the proceeds of his success.
A $50 million donation to his alma mater to set up the Tuckwell Scholarship will see the ANU try and create Australia’s own brand of Rhodes Scholars.
"I supposed I could have bought a yacht, and then sat on it… Or I could have spent in on fancy holidays, and alienated myself from my friends, or bought half a dozen houses, but then how could I sit in church every Sunday?"
While he may live with Louise in the international business enclave of Jersey in the Channel Isles, where income tax is a flat 20 per cent, Mr Tuckwell believes the excesses of the ultra-rich can often make them look like "wallies".
His four children will receive "a bit of money" and a great education courtesy of their parents, but they will need to work hard to build their own success, he says.
Meanwhile, Mr Tuckwell has set his sights on encouraging Australia’s most promising undergraduates to stretch themselves beyond just getting a degree.
He wants them to become engaged with their communities and well-rounded citizens. For five years of their undergraduate degree, or double degree, they will receive up to $100,000 and the personal mentoring of Mr Tuckwell who says the big difference between him and British mining magnate and De Beers diamond founder Cecil Rhodes is that he is young enough to engage with his scholars and influence the sort of program they will undertake.
"Leaving your money in a will means there is not much influence."
Having barely returned to Canberra since his investment banking career took off, Mr Tuckwell pledges to make the trip back each winter in order to help vet each new intake of 25 Year 12 students who display the requisite personality traits, and to share his business acumen with the 125 Tuckwell Scholars who shall call ANU home.