The relationship between Jack Ma and Ken Morley was built on some of the most basic of human needs – love and friendship.

An enduring impression

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Jack Ma first met Novocastrian Ken Morley and his family when they visited Mr Ma’s hometown of Hangzhou with the Australia-China Friendship Society in 1980.

An enterprising teenager, Mr Ma would seek out tourists in the area to practice his English and a chance encounter between Mr Ma and the Morley family sparked an enduring and life-changing friendship.

Mr Morley went on to become a highly influential figure in Mr Ma’s life. He visited Newcastle twice, and credits these experiences with opening his eyes to the world. Mr Morley challenged Mr Ma with rigorous debate on values and ideals and this inspired his yearning to make social change and do things differently.

Mr Morley’s friendship and mentorship had such an impact on Mr Ma that it inspired him to make a US$20 million philanthropic commitment to support students at the University of Newcastle. Mr Ma’s vision is to provide students with the opportunity to become globally aware and socially conscious citizens, while forming lifelong friendships like those he had with the with Morley family in Newcastle.

Ken Morley and Jack Ma
Ken Morley and Jack Ma

A life long connection

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Continuing a wonderful friendship

Jack Ma is the co-founder and former Executive Chairman of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies. From humble beginnings, he started this company in his apartment with a group of 18 friends and is now recognised as one of the world’s most prominent businessmen and influential leaders.

But it is not about the money for Mr Ma. In 2014 he established the Jack Ma Foundation with a mission to work toward a world with bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier communities and more open thinking. It focuses on education, environment, public health and people development, fostering an innovative and sustainable model for a better world.

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, which will transform the futures of hundreds of University of Newcastle students, to hopefully do good things in the world,” - David Morley.

Jack Ma and David Morley shaking hands
David Morley and Jack Ma
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