Gift to UNSW from the late Ken Cavill worth almost $1.8m

31 May 2018
Professor Ken Cavill

Professor George William Kenneth (Ken) Cavill (pictured: right) passed away at the age of 95 in 2017, and he will be remembered with gratitude and affection for his generosity and his many years of service to UNSW and the academic community. A bequest of almost $1.8m was his last generous gift to UNSW after having already donated over $270,000 since 1993, when he gave his first gift of $12 to the university. 

"Ken has had almost a lifelong connection with UNSW and through this bequest, he is leaving a wonderful legacy," says Janet Hall, Development Manager of Future Giving in the UNSW Division of Philanthropy. "We are so grateful that he has chosen to leave us this generous gift in his Will, after already contributing so much to the success of the University, both as a much-loved academic and through regular giving over the past 25 years." 

Professor Cavill was distinguished for his research in the chemistry of natural products, and his research interests lay at the interface of chemistry and biology. A popular and long-time staffer at UNSW, his connection with our University stretches back to his appointment as a Lecturer at the Sydney Technical College in 1944, later becoming a Senior Lecturer in 1950 and Associate Professor in 1959. During his time at UNSW, he rose to the heights of his career, became the first Head of School of Chemistry at the University, nurturing it to become one of the leading schools in the country. 

He mentored many students who went on to stellar careers in science, including his executor Dr Doreen Clark AM. Professor Cavill was also the very first personal chair of our University, appointed as the Chair in Organic Chemistry in 1964. He was also elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and considered one of Australia’s eminent organic chemists.  

“When I came to UNSW in 1983 to succeed Ken in the Chair of Organic Chemistry, he could not have been more helpful,” said UNSW Emeritus Professor David Black. “He gave me much useful information about the workings of the University, but at no stage said anything negative about individuals. I also quickly appreciated his rigorous scientific standards, which flowed on to all his postgraduate students.” 

Through the $270,000 he donated to UNSW in his lifetime, Professor Cavill helped provide a visiting lectureship – now known as the Cavill Lectures – which targets those early in their career and aims to encourage rising stars carrying out interdisciplinary research in the areas of chemistry and biology.  

Though Professor Cavill retired in 1982, he maintained his connections with the University, and contributed much to its growth. This incredible gift in Ken’s Will is to be used to support interdisciplinary research across chemistry and biology, continuing his legacy of supporting excellence in scholarly work. 

“Ken’s scientific legacy is extremely valuable, because it is 100% accurate and never over-stated,” Professor Black said.