Loving legacy supports young cancer researchers

This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Winter ‘22

The Wendy Dowsett Scholarships were established by Russell French to honour his late partner, Wendy.

Russell and Wendy met in 1967 while hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania; Russell was an architecture student and Wendy was studying geography and anthropology.

They were together for what Russell describes as their “half-century of happiness”.

The pair led an adventurous life: bushwalking, driving around Australia and then through Africa, Europe and Scandinavia.

On returning to Melbourne, Wendy completed a Master of Environmental Science, before they moved to Cairns to manage a gallery, specialising in Indigenous Australian art.

“Wendy basically gave herself to the Cairns community.”
Russell French

They were both passionate environmental advocates and activists. “Wendy basically gave herself to the Cairns community and fought environmental battles of all kinds,” Russell remembers.

In 2016, Wendy began to feel unwell. On Christmas Day, she deteriorated significantly and was rushed to hospital. Wendy was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer. She died just six weeks later.

A permanent acknowledgement

After Wendy’s death, Russell wanted to establish a permanent acknowledgement of her unstinting life of community service, while also helping find a prevention or cure for the disease that took her life at the age of 69.

He approached WEHI to set up a fund to help support research into myelofibrosis and, reflecting Wendy’s early career in teaching, assist young researchers in the difficult early years of their careers.

The Wendy Dowsett Scholarships now award three PhD students an annual grant for the duration of their studies. A permanent capital fund allows others to donate to the scholarships and ensure research continues into blood and bone marrow cancers, such as myelofibrosis.

Russell says: “I am keen to encourage the scholarship model of giving because it is intensely satisfying to know precisely where and to whom the assistance is going, while at the same time I’m honouring the life of an extraordinary person, Wendy Dowsett, who I was lucky enough to call the love of my life.”

To contribute to the Wendy Dowsett Scholarship Permanent Fund, please call our Fundraising team on (03) 9345 2403 or email us at fundraising@wehi.edu.au.

First published on 01 June 2022
This article featured in Illuminate Newsletter Winter ‘22
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