Jack Ma Honours His Late Australian Friend With USD20 Million Scholarship

The fund will help up to 90 students a year for at least 20 years.

Cover image via

Back in 1980, when Jack Ma was a teenager he met a Newcastle boy named David Morley in the tourist area of scenic Hangzhou

There, they played Frisbee and went on to become pen pals.

Jack Ma and David Morley playing Frisbee.

Image via China Money Network

David's father, Ken Morley, a socialist, took young Ma under his wing and five years later invited him to their New South Wales home

Ken and his wife, Judy, opened Jack's eyes to the world beyond China.

They helped subsidise his cost of living at Hangzhou Teachers College and also contributed USD22,000 to the purchase of newlywed Jack's first home.

Jack ma with Ken Morley and his family.

Image via South China Morning Post

Ken went on to become an influential figure in Jack's life, something the Chinese billionaire acknowledges. He has returned to Newcastle to see the Ken family several times since his first trip.

Ken Morley, who was a Newcastle electrical engineer, became Jack's friend, teacher and mentor. He instilled core values and a global perspective that positively impacted Jack Ma's future and contributed to his personal success.

Jack and Ken remained close friends until Ken's death in 2004.

Ken Morley with a young Jack Ma.

Image via AFR

Decades later, Jack Ma is now honouring the Morleys' friendship and generosity in ways that truly shows his attitude of gratitude

This week, he formalised one of the biggest philanthropic handouts to an Australian university, a USD20 million commitment to fund The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program at the University of Newcastle.

The establishment of the scholarship was announced by the University of Newcastle on Friday. It's being funded by Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, through the Jack Ma Foundation.

The significance and importance of the scholarship can be realised from the fact that Ma himself travelled to Newcastle to announce the scholarship program in a ceremony late Friday afternoon

"To honour the experience and the special relationship I formed with the Morley family, the Jack Ma Foundation is delighted to announce The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program that will inspire, educate and cultivate tomorrow's leaders," Jack said.

In its first year, The Ma & Morley Scholarship Program will support 30 scholarships, 20 of which will support students throughout their degrees, and 10 one-off scholarships to support educational exchanges, internships or immersion activities.

When the program reaches full capacity, it will support 90 students per year.

Ken Morley's family was represented at the scholarship announcement by his son David, who works as a yoga teacher

"Dad would be extremely proud of Jack's commitment to making a difference to students in our hometown, and so touched that their close friendship has led to this program," David said, adding that the Morley family were very happy to see Ma honouring their father's egalitarian values.

Jack Ma and David Morley in Newcastle on Friday before the announcement.

Image via Peter Stoop via AFR

What a way to honour a remarkable friendship!

Jack Ma and Ken Morley.

Image via The University of Newcastle, Australia

Read Jack Ma's story here: