Louise Nicholson would like nothing better in her lifetime than to see a cure for spinal cord injury.
With her husband Jon, Professor Nicholson has made a remarkably generous gift to University of Auckland researchers to help achieve the difficult objective.
As we report today, the Nicholsons have made a $1 million donation to the institution. The money will help support the work of PhD students undertaking spinal cord injury research.
It is the single largest donation ever made by a university staff member, a sum described as unprecedented by a grateful Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon. He said the couple's financial support underlined the value of the university "to change lives for the better."
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Nicholson says she was prompted to give something back to the place where she spent her working life because she treasured her academic career and the privilege of mentoring medical students.
A brain expert, the 64-year-old hopes the funds will help inspire the next generation of talented young scholars to make the breakthrough that all spinal cord researchers dearly want to see: Wheelchair users regaining the ability to walk.
She is facing her own personal health challenge, after learning three years ago that she had a brain tumour.
Nicholson said the diagnosis played a big part in her decision to retire from her role as the principal investigator of the Molecular Neuroanatomy Laboratory in the Centre for Brain Research.
Its cutting-edge work involves international collaboration, testimony to the high value research by its staff. Nicholson has been an integral part of the team for many years, leading inquiries into the mechanisms common to degenerative diseases.
Now that task falls to others, but Nicholson says she will be watching with great interest. "There is a huge potential to actually make a difference and find a cure," she remarked.
When that happens, she will be owed a big debt.