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Family legacy underpins prize in astrophysics
'The work that is being undertaken at the University of Southern Queensland in astrophysics at a student-level and a research-level with consequent practical applications is forward-thinking and incredibly innovative. There is an extraordinarily strong resonance between the life principles of my forebears and what the University is doing in critical areas.' – Dick White, descendant of Darius Hunt and Jessie Smart, named for the Hunt-Smart Prize in Astrophysics

Dick White’s mother, Jessie White (nee Smart), moved from Toowoomba to Brisbane to gain a tertiary education after the end of World War One. It was a time when a young girl’s aspirations – and ability – to attend university was viewed through a limiting cultural lens.   

“She was required to complete her senior year at secondary school, twice, ‘just to be sure’ she would be able to achieve academically at university,” Dick recalled.  

Jessie certainly did succeed, gaining a Master of Arts degree in political economy and then tutoring at the University of Queensland. Years later, when her husband – biochemist and State Government analyst Dr Monty White – died of cancer at a young age, she returned to study and then to teaching to support her five children.   

“She knew firsthand the value of education and never missed an opportunity to tell young girls and women how important it was,” Dick said.  

Jessie’s maternal grandfather, Darius Hunt, established the Toowoomba Chronicle in 1861, was an auditor of the then Toowoomba Building Society and was strongly involved with the Drayton and Toowoomba Agricultural Society and Horticultural Society and the School of Arts.  

The original Hunt-Smart award was created in 1961 by Jessie White with the intention to provide financial support each year for one promising student from the broader Toowoomba region to undertake tertiary study. It was administered by the Toowoomba Chronicle and the funds came from a family inheritance that supported students for many years.  

In 2021, the University of Southern Queensland revived the award and added to its funds to support the Hunt-Smart Endowment to recognise excellent students in astrophysics – one of the University’s flagship research areas.  

“The University of Southern Queensland’s approach to encouraging students to excel is commended by my whole family and we are very pleased to have an association with the University in its management of the Hunt-Smart Prize,” Dick White said.  

The inaugural winners of the Hunt-Smart Prize in Astrophysics were announced in late 2021 – Sue Storey and Angela Bruce.  

Angela Bruce recently completed her science degree at the University of Southern Queensland and has plans to complete a Master in Teaching and Learning.  

“My passion is maths and exoplanetary science and I want to share that with students in the future,” she said.  

“My senior maths and science teacher was incredible and turned maths into something that everyone was interested in. I want to be able to that for other students in the future.”

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