TERTIARY education on the Sunshine Coast simply wouldn't be the same without Roy and Nola Thompson.

The couple are the humble faces behind some of the University of the Sunshine Coast's latest infrastructure and programs.

With almost $12m donated in the past decade, and pledges for further donations this year, the Thompsons are certainly staunch supporters of locals receiving a higher education.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed too, with the Thompsons announced as winners of the Queensland Community Foundation's Higher Education Philanthropist of the Year Award.

However, the award never had any bearing on the modest couple's decisions to give.

"It wouldn't have made any difference whatsoever," Roy said.

"If we got it that's good if we didn't get it, it's still good."

Feeling like the Coast was in a slump, Roy was motivated to give it a boost through education.

The university was the first beneficiary to come to mind.

"That's why I did it, because I think if more people got longer arms and shorter pockets we'd be a lot better off," he said.

"You can't take it (money) with you, so you might as well leave it here."

In 2011-12 the couple donated $400,000 to USC to provide study support bursaries for students most at risk of not completing their degree due to financial pressures. The donation allowed 149 students to achieve their education goals and partake in their chosen careers.

In 2013, Roy and Nola continued their unprecedented support with a $4.85 million donation to USC to build a multi-level car park on campus. The aim was to generate parking revenues which would be channelled back to the University via bursaries and scholarships. This program is locked in for 60 years and will benefit more than 1000 students.

They then donated $6.9 million to build and establish the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute at USC. The facility is on target this year to help more than 6000 patients with a mental illness.

It doesn't end there, with the couple pledging to provide a further $3.6 million to purchase and install a research-enabled, magnetic resonance imaging machine at the university.


Nola and Roy Thompson have been given a philanthropic award due to their incredible generosity to the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Nola and Roy Thompson have been given a philanthropic award due to their incredible generosity to the University of the Sunshine Coast. Warren Lynam

With eight children, 15 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren, supporting education and the younger generations was a cause close to their hearts.

"We didn't have any tertiary education and neither did any of our children apart from trades but we can see the sense in it now," Nola said.

"Today, you can't get a job unless you've been university.

"So, we thought we have got to help the kids who want to go and perhaps can't afford to do what they want to do."

The duo called on others in the community to dig deep and rejuvenate the Sunshine Coast.

"There is tons of money in this area and it's controlled by certain people and they don't want to give it away," Roy said.

"It will happen, people will start to wake up to themselves and realise that if they are going to live in such a beautiful area why not help it."

Roy and Nola's philanthropy extends back to 1977 when they, with two others, started the Sunshine Coast Helicopter Rescue Service.

They are also a major supporter of the Maroochydore Surf Club and Maroochy Beach Gymnastics.

Roy listed the Men's Shed, the region's homeless and student accommodation as areas he would like to help in the future.

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