The Avondale scholarship you’ve never heard of


Sarah-Jane Riley is the 50th recipient of an unusual scholarship with an interesting history. It’s called the Avondale Ministerial Training Scholarship. Unlike most scholarships, it doesn’t focus on student need. Rather, it’s awarded to ministerial students like Sarah-Jane who are already demonstrating their call to ministry by their involvement in their local congregation and wider community. 

So how did it get started?

Not only is the fund growing but the board has funded Avondale student led evangelistic campaigns in Fiji, Solomon Islands and last year, Malaysia. These three campaigns have resulted in 504 baptisms.

Sarah-Jane Rliey.

Graham Allen was a very successful Adventist businessman who spent his entire life on the NSW Central Coast, where he owned and operated the Pluim Group of construction-related companies, the largest privately owned commercial building operation on the coast. But Graham was more than a businessman.

Deeply committed to the mission of the Church, Graham served on many of its boards and committees over the years, including the Avondale College of Higher Education Council. But as a strong-minded businessman, full of energy and enthusiasm, who never had a board or committee to report to in his entire life, such service tended to make him a bit impatient. His preferred contribution to the mission of the Church was through donations and practical endeavours such as financing and leading fly’n’build programs out in the Pacific. 

At the time of his death in a cycling accident Graham was volunteering as project manager for construction of the new Fulton College campus in Fiji. His son Scott and nephew Greg Allen have since brought that program through to completion. 

In 2001 Graham decided he wanted to encourage and reward ministerial students in the last half of their training. Particularly, he wanted to focus on students who already demonstrated their call to ministry, not only in their class-work but also in their local church involvement, outreach and witnessing activities, and who in so doing had demonstrated in a practical way their suitability for employment. To that end Graham made a donation to Avondale College of Higher Education (the largest ever received)—one to which, in his typical humble fashion, he refused to have his name attached or publicly recognised.

Graham Allen.

The board overseeing the scholarships, which is made up of retired former senior denominational leaders, has worked very closely with the college ministerial training department in the years since as they have invested, managed and distributed these funds on behalf of Avondale and the recipient students. 

Since its inception, the program has awarded $A250,000 in scholarships and grants. In 2014, $A55,000 was donated by church members to the fund and another $A10,000 has been received so far in 2015. This is good news, particularly as the initial capital has been growing very slowly since the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent period of low interest rates. 

Not only is the fund growing but the board has funded Avondale student led evangelistic campaigns in Fiji, Solomon Islands and last year, Malaysia. These three campaigns have resulted in 504 baptisms. Plans are underway for another evangelistic campaign this year. The board would also like to expand to provide media evangelism training through sponsored workshops and training for ministry, particularly in rural areas where there is currently no Adventist presence. The problem? Funding. 

If the fund could be enlarged by $A500,000 by gifts from generous people, the benefits to Avondale ministerial students would be enormous.

On the back page of the upcoming April 25 issue of Adventist Record is an advertisement with information on how to make tax-deductible gifts to this program. Why not become an active part of this remarkable story? 

The best thing about the scholarship? The graduates who are out actively ministering across our region. Every day they demonstrate with their lives the power of good people, a good cause and a good idea. They prove there is no better investment than in people, dedicated to following God’s will!

Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.