Honorary awards

Honorary degrees conferred on 29 August 1952

A number of honorary degrees were conferred on 29 August 1952 as part of the University's Centenary celebrations.

The images are Sydney Morning Herald photo, copies held by the University of Sydney Archives. Click on photos for enlargement.

Some recipients

Some of the honorary degree recipients, including the Right Honourable William Morris Hughes (left), Martin McIlrath, Lieutenant-General Sir Iven Giffard Mackay, The Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies, The Right Honourable Sir George Edward Rich and The Honourable Kenneth Whistler Street, Sydney Morning Herald photo, copies held by the University of Sydney Archives.

Arrival of the Governor-General

The Governor-General, Sir William McKell, who was to be first to receive his honorary degree, inspected a guard ofhonour of the Royal Australian Air Force, on his arrival at the university.

He was then met by the Chancellor of the University, Sir Charles Blackburn; the Deputy Chancellor, Mr. Justice Roper; and the Vice Chancellor. Professor S. H. Roberts.

Academic procession

The academic procession comprising the Fellows of the Senate, the Official Delegates to the Celebrations, the Honorary Graduands and the Members of the Academic Staff moved across the main quadrangle, across the front of the main building, into the Great Hall.

The Carillon sounded during the procession.

Commencement of the ceremony

The Chancellor Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn KCMG OBE presided at the ceremony, which was held in the Great Hall and commenced at 11.00am on 29 August 1952.

After the National Anthem, "God Save the Queen", the Chancellor spoke:

This meeting has been called in order to confer Honorary Degrees in accordance with the Statutes and Regulations of this University. I therefore, as Chancellor, and in the name of the Senate, pronounce this meeting to be duly and lawfully convened. In the name of the Senate, and by my authority as Chancellor, I declare that the candidates are to be admitted to the degrees honoris causa. I now call upon the Orator, Professor R E Smith, formally to introduce the graduands.

Introduction of the graduands by the University Orator, Professor R E Smith

The University Orator, Professor R E Smith, then introduced the graduands in Latin.

Click here for the English translation kindly prepared by Associate Professor Dextor Hoyos, Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney.

Clarissime Cancellarie, tuque huius ciuitatis praeses nobilissime, uosque cuncti qui hanc celebrationem praesentia uestra honestatis, cum nobis omnibus turn praecipue Vniuersitati nostrae iamdudum optata illuxit aliquando haec dies, qua permissum nobis est ut eos qui de patria bene meriti sint praemio quodam meritis tam insignibus non omnino indigno decoremus; usque enim adhuc omni iure caruimus eos in nostram societatem honoris causa adsciscendi qui uel patriae nostrae saluti uel communibus humani generis commodis inseruientes ut farnam ita ciuium beneuolentiam sibi consecuti sint. Nunc autem cum hoc ius sit nobis tandem concessum, adscitis his uiris eminentissimis cum centesimi anni feliciter peracti solemnia celebrare ingrediemur, turn Vniuersitatis nostrae farnam atque amplitudinem splendore quod am nouo illustrabimus.

Nam hi omnes 'insignes pietate uiri' sibi gloriam mille modis adepti sunt; alii inter forensem strepitum sibimet farnam, beneficium patriae pepererunt; alii Naturam ipsam penitus abdita recludere coegerunt; pars iuris prudentia excellens, pars litteris, alii re militari, medicina alii nos omnes beneficiis deuinctos obstrinxerunt; neque silendum de eis qui aut liberalitatis magnificentia hanc Vniuersitatem locupletauerunt, aut fines ipsius, ut ita dicam, orbis terrarum propagauerunt; aeque omnes, quacumque uia progressi, digni tamen ad quos uerba illa augusta referantur Mantuani uatis:
Inuentas aut qui uitam excoluere per artes,
quique sui memo res aliquos fecere merendo.

Vt tamen multa paucis absoluam, ars et ingenium in his uiris incredibili felicitate coniuncta in nostrum commodum sunt; et cum ingeni fructus ac laborum in communem usum ipsi conferre non dubitauerint, maxime decebit hanc Vniuersitatem, si honore factis non impari eos affecerit. Hoc enim modo stimulum aliorum animis, populo nostro beneficia optime comparabimus. Quo cum iudicio uestrum quoque congruere gratulatio uestra atque approbatio plausu magno significata breui tempore, nisi fallor, aperte demonstrabit.

Presentation of the graduands

The Deputy-Chancellor Mr. Justice Roper presented Sir William McKell for the degree of Doctor of Laws. "William John McKell, " he said, "epitomises in its best form the career open to talents in the Australian community."

The Deputy Chancellor then presented the Premier the Hon John Joseph Cahill, who with all candidates who followed him, bowed low to the Governor-General before being handed his diploma by the Chancellor.

The third Doctorate ol Laws was conferred upon Sir Robert Garran, formerly Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, and now chairman of the Council of Canberra University College. Of him; Mr. Justice Roper said: "His name is inseparably associated with the development of the constitutional structure of the Commonwealth of Australia. ... It falls to few men to represent such a diversification of functions, and such a fulfilment of achievement, as does Sir Robert Garran."

A highlight was the presentation by the Vice-Chancellor of Mr. W. M. Hughes, who received sustained applause. Professor Roberts said Mr. Hughes was "a figure unique and unsurpassable in the history of Australia."

Others presented for the degree of Doctor of Laws were: Mr. Martin Mcllrath, benefactor of the University; Lieui. General Sir lven G. Mackay; the Prime Minister Mr. R. G. Menzies; Sir George Rich; the Lieut.-Governor and Chief Justice of N.S.W., Mr. K. W. Street.

The degree of Doctor of Letters was then conferred upon Mr. R. J. Heffron, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, and Emeritus Professor E. R. Holme, formerly Professor of English Language in the University of Sydney.

Recipients of the degree of Doctor of Science were: Professor R. S. Aitken, Vice Chancellor of the University of Otago, New Zealand; Sir Edward Appleton, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh; Sir John Cockcroft, Director of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Ministry of Supply, England; Dr. H. V. Evatt. Leader of the Federal Opposition and Fellow of the University Senate, who became the first to hold three doctorates in the University of Sydney; Dr. Norman McAlister Gregg, of the University of Toronto, Canada; Mr. Essington Lewis; Sir Douglas Mawson, Professor of Geology in the University of Adelaide, and Sir Earle Page, chairman of the Advisory Council of the New England, University College, Armidale.

Chancellor Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn with The Right Honourable William Morris Hughes

At the close of the presentations, the Chancellor invited four of the graduates to address the assembly.

Address by The Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency The Right Honourable Sir William John McKell

Mr. Chancellor, the Right Honourable the Prime Minister, the Honourable the Premier, the Honourable the Chief Justice of New South Wales, ladies and gentlemen: I am doubly conscious of the great honour that has been conferred upon me today. I desire to express to you, Sir, and to the members of the Senate, my sincere gratitude for the great compliment you have paid me of considering me worthy to receive so great an honour from this distinguished University. I must confess to feelings of pride today. I am proud to know that the mother University of my native land has seen fit to honour me. I am proud to realise that in the conferring of these Honorary Degrees the broad principles which have guided this University throughout its history, and which were first set down by its founders, are still being followed. It is a tradition of this University that its noble doors and welcoming arches are open to all. How faithfully that tradition has been followed is exemplified in today's ceremony. This is in keeping with the Australian ideal, the ideal of a land that gives to all her sons and daughters the greatest opportunity to serve her.

Mr. Chancellor, I desire to extend to you my very sincere and hearty congratulations on the celebration of your Centenary. The magnificent oration to which we were privileged to listen yesterday, delivered by the Honourable the Chief Justice of New South Wales, an oration that will be read whilst ever this University reflects upon the splendour of these Celebrations, placed the coping stone upon a hundred years of noble work. The greatness of that work is recognised and appreciated not alone throughout this community but in all those other lands that have a knowledge of its magnificence.

Mr. Chancellor, you, those associated with you, and all those devoted, selfsacrificing, public-spirited men and women who have preceded you, have written an imperishable page in the history of our country.

Address by The Prime Minister of Australia, The Right Honourable Robert Gordon Menzies

Mr. Chancellor, Your Excellency, and ladies and gentlemen: As Your Excellency has pointed out, this is a very great week and a great year for this famous University. For people like myself, it is, therefore, a singular privilege to have had some small part in the Celebrations.

Naturally, I want to express my own sensibility of the great honour that has been done to me. I am one of the few who have the opportunity of saying thank you, and so perhaps I should say it on behalf of all the others. It is a very agreeable thing to be here; it is very agreeable for a Prime Minister once in a while to find himself in a large company at once so respectable and so

While the ceremony has proceeded this morning, my mind has been going back over the fact-which cannot be concealed, because it is written on the programme - that I have had the great privilege of receiving Honorary Degrees from several Universities. They cover a wide field, from Belfast and Bristol to British Columbia (Vancouver), and so home to my own country. Each has been in a different setting, in a different land. Perhaps the most dramatic of all those occasions was at Bristol when the Chancellor was Winston Churchill himself, and where the Great Hall of that University was actually burning as the ceremony proceeded in the Senate Room, burning as the result of a great air raid a few hours earlier. But whatever the variety of those experiences, one always comes back to this: The universities of the world have a responsibility which is peculiar to them, and every man who graduates from a university has a responsibility accordingly which is peculiar to him. That great common task, if I may refer to it in two sentences, is this: First, to preserve and raise high standards of scholarship. There can be no room for mediocrity in a great university. Many of us like myself may become graduates and be mediocre, but the standards must never be mediocre, because the world needs high standards of scholarship, and high standards of cultivation, of humane cultivation, as perhaps it has never needed them before. And, secondly - and this is a corollary of the first - the university is the guardian of objectivity of mind, the study of things on their merits, the expression of the truth as the truth, and not to please anybody else but to serve the truth.

These, Mr. Chancellor, are tremendous tasks. They are frequently clouded in the stress of modern circumstances, but so long as we have great universities like this, with great men presiding over their destinies, I believe we shall keep these twin flames burning to the great advantage of mankind.

Address by The Premier of New South Wales, The Honourable John Joseph Cahill

Your Excellency, Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Deputy Chancellor, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, Members of the University Senate, ladies and gentlemen: Today I have been greatly honoured. This is a moment which will remain always in my memory as one of the most important episodes of my lifetime. This ceremony is historic because it is the first occasion upon which the University of Sydney, in its long and distinguished existence, has conferred Honorary Degrees upon citizens from so many varied walks of life.

To have been included among the recipients of these Honorary Degrees is in itself a great distinction. But that distinction is the greater when one pauses to remember that the honour comes in a year when Australia's first University is celebrating its first hundred years of existence and achievement. Sir, and Members of the Senate, on behalf of Honorary Graduates generally and myself in particular, I thank you and the Senate of your University for the very signal recognition you have accorded us. As for my colleague, the Minister for Education, and myself, I cannot help but feel that the Honorary Degrees which have been conferred upon us are, strictly speaking, a generous recognition of us as the representatives of a Government which has enjoyed the confidence of the people of this State for many long years. The honour is therefore the greater. Speaking for myself, I was, I regret, one of the many not privileged to enjoy in my youth the undoubted benefits of university life and of the higher academic, specialiled training. My university was the work bench, my robe the overall, and my bonnet the engineer's cap. I am proud to say that I graduated in my own particular sphere. My post-graduate course has been in the service of the people. While I shall always be regretful that the opportunity was not for me to claim an alma mater and aspire to the higher learning, there is pride and great solace in being honoured as I have been today. When I look around this Great Hall, the most outstanding example of Gothic architecture in this hemisphere, and visualise the many modern and imposing buildings set all about, I cannot help but look back to those days long ago when the acres upon which this proud institution stands were farmlands - Grose's Farm, it was called, l believe - then far removed from the heart of old Sydney. That was in a day when productive farmlands were of the same vital importance to our existence, our welfare and our economy as they are today. And, in a day, too, when our citizen and political ancestors had, I am glad to say, the same appreciation as we ourselves have of the paramount importance of advanced education. Hence this great University.

One hundred years ago, 24 matriculants were admitted to this University, but in the Jubilee Year of 1902, 730 were in attendance. By 1925 the number had increased to 2,611. Today the enrolment is 7,511. Originally the annual grant was £5,000. Statutory grants for 1951-52, embracing the University of Sydney, the New England University, and the University of Technology, totalled £1,141,623, and the allocations for 1952-53 total £1,330,524. My Government's recognition of the value of education is probably best exemplifid by the fact that £20,700,000 was expended in 1951-52. Compare this sum with the £5,798,000 spent in 1939.

The University of Sydney is one of the greatest in the world. It has given to Ausralia and the world outstanding jurists, great doctors and surgeons, famous mathematicians and scientists, high-ranking economists, and many thousands of men and women of culture and efficiency in the arts, the sciences and the profssions. Since its foundation over 30,000 students in all the faculties have earned their degrees, many with the highest distinction. Our nation is so much the richer and stronger as the result of their years of intensive study here. To me there has been always a great aesthetic appeal in the work done in our University, and for it I have ever felt the keenest appreciation.

It is fortunate for the people of this State and of Australia that the Senate of this University has never faltered in its duty.

Sir, again I thank the Senate of this University for the great honour conferred upon me and other Honorary Graduates today.

Address by The Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Sir Edward Victor Appleton, GBE KCB

Mr. Chancellor, Your Excellency, Mr. Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen: Perhaps I may be allowed to speak specially on behalf of those members of the academic community who have received these signal marks of your approval this morning. We are men of diverse experience and qualifications, but, coming from the darkness of our cloisters into the sunshine of your favour, we have, I find, one thing in common - and also one thing in common with the Blessed Damozel - in that the look of wonder hasn't left our faces.

Coming, as I do now, from the youngest of the Scottish Universities - a fact which my brother Principals in Scotland seem to delight in mentioning at quite frequent intervals - I've become a little sensitive on this subject of relative academic age. So you'll understand why my self-confidence has been fully restored this morning when I've graduated in the oldest University in Australia.

Now as I've moved about Australia and had the pleasure of meeting many Sydney graduates, I've been delighted to find how affectionately loyal they are to their alma mater. But, you know, I find such loyalty, which is also most marked among our Scottish graduates, a little difficult to understand when I remember that we university teachers don't always treat our charges too leniently. We first of all beset them, as students, with rules and regulations. We subject them to lectures which must often strike them as the wilful complication of essentially simple facts. We persistently ask them, what seem to many of them, the wrong questions in their final examinations. And yet, the more we ill-treat them in this way when they are with us, the more affection they seem to feel for us when they've left us !

However, this morning it's been a case of graduation without tears. But let me say just this. This great honour - the highest which your Senate has in its power to bestow - has somehow served to round off - indeed to crown - the gracious welcome I've received since coming to Australia.

Now I always feel that any society continues to exhibit the qualities of its founders long after their own time. I'm naturally interested in the record of your first Principal, the Oxonian John Woolley, who had a favourite word for what he wanted his students to become. It was a Greek word which - for the benefit of the scientists present - I will translate as 'earnest' and 'thorough.' But every Oxford man has his Cambridge moments; and, as a Cambridge man, I like to think that Dr. Woolley chose this word because it also conveys the sense of speed-of getting on with the job. To discharge any task then, earnestly, thoroughly and expeditiously - that was the responsibility assigned to the young Sydney students a hundred years ago. And, a century later, it seems to me that the charge is unaltered.

Now, as all my Australian friends know, I've spent ten years of my life in the Civil Service, wedged between two spells of university work. My return to the academic fold has been regarded by many people, I know, as a kind of deathbed repentance. And yet I wouldn't have missed for anything those ten eventful years in the public service. They were the war years of stress and strain; and it seems to me that, during them, one saw tested not only the fibre of all our people, but also the quality of our national institutions. Among these I count our universities, and, as the most precious part of our universities, their students and graduates. It fell to my lot to see much of the war work of people with university training; and I cannot but feel that, if the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, the Second World War, to quite a considerable extent, was won in the lecture rooms and laboratories of our universities. Weare, therefore, entitled to ask ourselves what it was that enabled our graduates, nurtured in the unwarlike atmosphere of our academic grooves, to turn their hands so effectively to these severe and unfamiliar tasks. My own answer to this question is doubtless co loured by my special acquaintance with our war effort in the field of science; but, even generally, I have no hesitation in saying that it was quality of mind and of imagination, together with a training in fundamentals, which counted most. There was undoubtedly ample opportunity for the exercise of special skills and techniques; but in war-time many problems arise for the first time, and it was in the solution of these that the intellectual resource and basic training of our graduates showed to such great advantage. Of course, we are all now familiar enough with the influence of the development of scientific knowledge on modern warfare. One such development proceeded in such a way as to face the Allied statesmen with the fearful question whether atomic bombs should be dropped or not. But science nowadays is posing many other questions to governments in addition to this. Indeed, I would say that one of the most significant features of scientific progress is this - that it greatly increases the number of decisions which have to be taken politically. And here lies much of our difficulty, for there are important and fundamental differences between problems of science and problems of action, whether the latter arise in personal or political life.

We can experiment in science; and, what is more, we can subject our experiments to repetition. And an experiment which fails is not held against us - as it is, I gather, Mr. Prime Minister, in politics - because in science the failure itself may be generally accepted as instructive. Each political decision, on the other hand, is for the most part unique in itself; and, since there can usually be no control experiment, we cannot always say with finality, even in retrospect, whether the decision actually taken at a given time was the best in the circumstances. Incidentally, you will note here that I am no believer in the glib doctrine that we should "do everything by science."

It is in reaching such decisions, in which scientific or any other specialised knowledge is concerned, that modern governments are coming to rely more and more on university teachers and workers for sound and balanced advice. That this should happen is, to my mind, an excellent development; but we must aim at a balance in these things. For, even inside a university nowadays, I find that people seem to be already far too much taken up with the 'busyness' of committees and administration. We must beware then lest, what with outside and inside activities of this kind, action becomes a drug and we become addicted to it. We must still find our time for browsing, for pondering, for brooding, for arguing about ultimate matters and moral values. We must keep getting back to the ivory tower, to the cloisters. When I say, then, that we should lead a double life, I hope I won't be misunderstood.

It is here, I think, that this great University of Sydney - like the University to which I now belong-possesses real advantages in being set in a large community. We can try, as we have done in the past, to lead these double lives of the useful citizen and the intellectual adventurer. We can live with people and
with ideas.

Finally, Mr. Chancellor, may I also speak for the new members of your Academic Society in congratulating you on this significant occasion. May the University of Sydney ever continue to advance the intellectual estate of mankind in its pursuit of both knowledge and understanding.

Conclusion of the ceremony by the Chancellor

The Chancellor then concluded the ceremony:

I am sure you will all have concluded that the University has honoured itself by conferring these Honorary Deghrees on the recipients.

You will also, I am sure, feel very much gratified at what you have heard the four representatives say. No doubt it is a matter of regret that the other recipients were not able to address you, not because they were not willing to do so, but because we felt that perhaps if they did you might get too much learning in too short a time.

I ask you to show your appreciation by acclamation.

After the ceremony, the academic procession returned across the quadrangle.


"The University of Sydney Centenary Celebrations August 26 - August 31, 1952" compiled by the Office of Information and Public Relations. Allan Gamble, Information and Public Relations Officer

Sydney Morning Herald report, 30 August 1952