With an unexpected gift in their wills left to The University of Queensland, Maryborough locals Alfred and Olivea Wynne – known for their contributions to the town’s business, music and community – created a legacy for themselves that would span generations of students.
Despite no known connection to UQ, in the late 1960s, the Wynnes left $200,000 to endow a memorial scholarship in their name at UQ. The scholarship provided students from their hometown and the Wide Bay area financial support to study at the University – an act of extraordinary generosity that has supported almost 750 locals since 1972.
Tracy Comans received one of these scholarships in 1987 as a physiotherapy student living at Union College. She is now an Associate Professor and a NHMRC researcher at UQ’s Centre for Health Services Research.
“My mother always drilled into me that I have to go to university because she hadn’t had the opportunity, and I think she always felt trapped by her lack of education in that she didn’t really have options,” Tracy recalls.
“Originally, I actually wanted to be a vet – that was up until Year 10 when I did work experience at a vet clinic and I realised I was too squeamish.
“When I couldn’t do vet, I thought I’d work with people, because you can at least explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing. So I ended up choosing physio.”
For Tracy and other students coming to UQ from the Maryborough and Wide Bay area, the scholarship helped pay for critical learning equipment like textbooks.
“It basically covered my textbooks and some uniforms for prac. The extra support was really helpful,” she said.
Following her Bachelor of Physiotherapy (’90), Associate Professor Comans returned to UQ to complete a Bachelor of Economics (’96), Bachelor of Economics (Honours) (’98) and a PhD in physiotherapy (’10).
“I came back to study because I think I’m just a curious person,” she said.
“I like knowing about the world and how things work, and after I finished physio, I didn’t feel like I had a very broad education because the degree is very tailored for that specific job.”
Her work now as a researcher at UQ’s Centre for Health Services Research and adjunct Research Fellow in the Metro North Hospital and Health Service meets at the junction of these academic interests.
“My work is really an intersection of all the learning that I’ve had: I’m working in health economics, so investigating health services and value for money,” Associate Professor Comans said.
“Most of our health services in Australia are publicly funded, and we want to know that that money is going towards improving health – we don’t want the money that we’re spending to be wasted.”
Reflecting on her scholarship, she acknowledges that the meaning of the support went beyond just the financial assistance.
“Looking back, I think it’s really lovely to get that recognition for the work you’ve put in and that somebody is willing to support you in achieving your goals,” she said.