The Alumni Award for Exceptional Community Service recognises the work of an outstanding Alumni member who has made a significant contribution to their community, which also enhances the University of Newcastle/community relationship.

Newcastle Teachers College (1959)

Ms Jennie Thomas is living a life of service. She understands the challenges that life can deal and has given much of herself to helping others face them.

In her early career as a teacher she provided her skills to people in need. In the 1970s and ’80s, concerned about the dislocation facing refugees, she played a key role in the development of English as a Second Language, migrant and refugee education programs in Victoria. Then, wanting to help those without the benefit of education, she rounded out her teaching career helping mature age students returning to study.

Jennie has a long history of philanthropic support, giving her time, talents and treasure to charities, organisations and individuals around Australia, in Africa, Papua New Guinea, across Asia and the Pacific. Since 2002, Jennie has also focused on the Hunter, providing significant philanthropic contributions for research and numerous student scholarships in health, science, the environment and the art, made possible through partnerships with the Hunter Medical Research Institute and the University.

Jennie invests time and energy into mentoring her beneficiaries and encourages the sharing of knowledge through her global networks. She was appointed a member of the Order of Australia in 2009 for her community service.