24/04/2019 - 14:44

Personal stories underpin long-term support

24/04/2019 - 14:44


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Three prominent Perth businessmen are proving the importance of individual connection to motivate sustained financial backing.

Personal stories underpin long-term support
George Jones (left), with Jim Litis, Ear Science chief executive Sandra Bellekom, Marcus Atlas, and John Schaffer. Photo: Karin Calvert

Three prominent Perth businessmen are proving the importance of individual connection to motivate sustained financial backing.

A tight-knit trio of businessmen are calling for a new wave of philanthropists to support Perth’s research community.

George Jones, John Schaffer and Jim Litis are major supporters of the Ear Science Institute Australia, which addresses ear health through research, treatment and training.

The group’s legacy is set to provide better hearing for numerous Western Australians, but the donors’ lives have also been hugely improved by the connection.

(click here to read a PDF version of the full special report)

Ear Science was founded by Professor Marcus Atlas in 2001.

Former Sundance Resources chairman George Jones was the biggest single donor to the $20 million Ear Science building, which officially opened in Subiaco in 2011.

Mr Jones $3 million for the state of the art building.

His involvement came after Professor Atlas diagnosed him with Meniere’s disease following years of misdiagnosis by other specialists.

Professor Atlas went on to perform complex surgery, involving lifting Mr Jones’ brain at the base, putting an end to years of blackouts and dizzy spells.

Mr Jones said Ear Science’s success lay in its profits-based business model.

Ear Science chairman John Schaffer said he had been impressed by Professor Atlas’ vision for this model, using profits to sustain research.

“The model enables the institute to operate without total reliance on government funding, as is too often the case,” he said.

Mr Schaffer chairs building materials group Schaffer Corporation.

Alongside his wife Debbie Schaffer, he led the fundraising for the Subiaco building.

Mr Schaffer has known Professor Atlas from when they were boys, but became involved in fundraising through long-term friend Mr Litis.

Mr Litis said he became acquainted with Professor Atlas about 15 years ago after the surgeon successfully operated on his son’s ear, and said this connection was one reason he chose to support Ear Science.

“Marcus and I would often chat at the footy about his dream of creating a world-class facility,” he said.

“I’ve recognised people I’ve met in my life’s journey as people who can make a difference – when I meet them I know they can make a significant difference.

“Marcus is one of those people. 

“He could’ve been on the world stage somewhere else but he chose to stay here and advance what’s happening here above his own personal betterment.”

A founding director of property investment group Primewest, Mr Litis spent 12 months in negotiations for the lease on a piece of land belonging to the Catholic Church to house the facility.

Professor Atlas said the trio had not only donated generous amounts of money, but also their time and knowledge.

Ear Science had grown from three staff in 2001 to more than 100 people, he said, but the scale of growth and its success would not have been achievable without Mr Jones, Mr Schaffer and Mr Litis.

The organisation is ranked 44 on the BNiQ charities list, with $8.2 million revenue.

“If we really want to come down to it, what they gave is their time, intelligence and experience – that is the biggest donation they’ve ever given us,” Professor Atlas said.

* The Institute's annual Gift of Hearing charity dinner will be held on May 17. For details: http://bit.ly/GOH-2019




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