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Henry Ebenezer Barff CMG

Henry Ebenezer Barff CMG (1857 - 1925) was Registrar of the University of Sydney from 1882 to 1924 and a Fellow of Senate elected by the graduates from 1924 to 1925. The position of Registrar included being Secretary to Senate.


Profile

MA Sydney
– Registrar: 1882 - 1924 (Registrar and Librarian, 1893 - 1914; Warden and Registrar, 1914 - 1924)
– Fellow of Senate: 1924 - 1925

His early years

Barff was born on 9 July 1857 at Tahaa Island, Society Islands. He was the youngest son of the Reverend John Barff of the London Missionary Society and his wife, Amelia. In 1865 the family moved to Sydney.

He attended Camden College.

His student days at the University of Sydney

Barff enrolled in 1873 as an undergraduate in the University of Sydney.

He did well in his studies, receiving the Soloman Levey and Thomas Barker Scholarships and the University Medal in Mathematics.

In 1882 he took out the degree of Master of Arts.

His career at the University of Sydney

Barff became master of studies at the University of Sydney and in 1879 an assistant examiner and acting lecturer in mathematics.

Registrar Hugh Kennedy became ill in 1880. The 1880s were to see many changes in the University and the Senate, in seeking a successor to Hugh Kennedy, chose a man it believed would be capable of organising and coping with the increased administrative duties as well as meeting the needs of the growing numbers of staff and students. The man it chose was Herbert Ebenezer Barff.

Barff was appointed Acting Registrar in 1880, and in 1882 was appointed Registrar, a position he was to hold until 1924. He was also titular Librarian from 1893-1914. In 1914 he added the office of Warden to that of Registrar.

For a period of forty-two years Barff was to be chief administrator in the University. He was responsible to the Senate for all aspects of the University except those directly related to the duties of the professoriate. Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors relied greatly on his expertise and knowledge. There was little that Barff did not know about the staff and students who regarded him as a friend, a just and fair man, ever ready to help and advise. His close personal contact with them also extended to the graduates with whom Barff always kept in contact. He was however always in firm control of administration and his "impressive dignity of bearing earned him, in his later years, awesome respect."

Henry Ebenezer Barff

Henry Ebenezer Barff, photo G3_224_0325 , University of Sydney Archives.

People associated with the University at Medlow Caves in 1895

People associated with the University at Medlow Caves in 1895 inlcuding Registrar Mr Barff (second from the left at the rear), Miss Britten, Constance Elizabeth Harker, Georgina Harriott, Monsignor James O'Brien, Dr Emil Trechman, Minnie Roseby, Dr Julia Thomas, Mrs Trechman, photo G3_224_0624, University of Sydney Archives.

The 25th anniversary presentation in the Great Hall to Registrar Mr Barff in 1907.

The 25th anniversary presentation in the Great Hall to Registrar Mr Barff in 1907, photo G3_224_1514, University of Sydney Archives.

A meeting of academics, 1920

A meeting of academic engineers, 1920: Barff, Sir William Cullen and Professor Hilton Mackay are centre, front row, photo G3_224_1995_1, University of Sydney Archives.

Henry Ebenezer Barff in 1922

Henry Ebenezer Barff in 1922, photo from the Sydney Medical School Senior Yearbook 1922, Faculty of Medicine Online Museum.


During his term of office the University grew from one teaching Faculty, four professors and 93 students in 1880 to ten Faculties and 2,688 students in 1924 when he retired.

On 31 August 1924, he resigned his position as Warden and Registrar on account of continued ill-health. When he left office it was found necessary to create the position of Vice-Chancellor.

Barff was appointed CMG in 1923 and served briefly on the Senate as a Fellow elected by the graduates from 1924 to 1925. He died of cerebro-vascular disease on 2 May 1925.

The funeral procession for Henry Ebenezer Barff, 1925

The funeral procession for Henry Ebenezer Barff, who died on 2 May 1925, less than a year after he resigned his position as Warden and Registrar on account of continued ill-health, photo G3_224_0365, University of Sydney Archives.

Senate's tribute

At its meeting on 11 May 1925, Senate resolved 'to renew its tribute to his exceptional merits and services, to express its heartfelt sorrow that he enjoyed the well-earned rest from his labours for so short a period, and to place on record its conviction that his name will be remembered along with those of the founders, the great benefactors, and the most distinguished members of the University.'

From an article by Ursula Bygott, University of Archives 'Record", September 1990, and the 1925 Senate Report