Universary anniversaries

Centenary 1950-1952

Service of Commemoration of Benefactors, 10 October 1951

The University of Sydney Centenary celebrations commenced in 1950 and commemorated various important phases in the foundation of the University.

To mark the inauguration of the University of Sydney, a Service of Commemoration of Benefactors was held on the lawns in front of the main facade on 10th October, 1951, at 3 p.m., in the presence of the Visitor to the University, His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales, the Honourable K. W. Street, B.A., LL.B. This was the first occasion since 1933 on which a Ceremony of Commemoration of Benefactors had been held. It took place on the lawns fronting the main building , and was held out of doors to allow a larger number than could be seated in the Great Hall to take part. All graduates and many visitors were invited to be present. The ceremony was followed by a Garden Party in the Quadrangle and was attended by over 2,000 members and friends of the University.

Before the Service

At 2.40 p.m. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of NSW, the Honourable K. W. Street, inspected a Guard of Honour from the Sydney University Regiment under the command of Captain A. P. Coxon.

Prior to the service a Carillon Recital was given by Mr. John Gordon, M.A.

An academic procession of over 200 assembled in the Vice-Chancellor's quadrangle and proceeded into the main quadrangle, into Science Road, then to the dais situated immediately in front of the clock tower. The National Anthem was played as the academic procession reached the dais.

The Chancellor of the University, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, Kt.Bach., O.B.E., B.A., M.D., Ch.M., F.RC.P., F.RC.P. (Hon. Edin.), F.RA.C.P., F.RS.M., presided.

Commencement of the Service by the Chancellor, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn

From left: The Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor S H Roberts; His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor of NSW, the Hon K W Street; the Chancellor, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn; the Deputy Chancellor, the Hon Mr Justic E D Roper; and the Acting Director of the NSW University of Technology, Professor J P Baxter, photo from The University of Sydney Gazette, January 1952, University of Sydney Archives.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Senate regards this ceremony of Commemoration of Benefactors as one of the most important, and certainly the most solemn, of the functions that have been arranged in connection with the celebrations of the Centenary of the University.

I am very happy to know that the University continues to receive generous support from very many of our citizens, particularly since the celebrations were inaugurated, and I am glad to know that several of these recent benefactors are in this gathering, but this ceremony is designed to turn our thoughts backward over the past hundred years and to pay a tribute to the memory of those very many benefactors who are no longer with us.

It is with these benefactors particularly in mind, and in a spirit of devout thankfulness, that the University today publicly acknowledges its great debt of gratitude.

In its early days the University was largely dependent upon private benefactors for its continued existence and its rapid progress, and development in the latter part of last century was in great measure due to those early pioneers who bequeathed large portions of their fortunes for its advancement.

We are, however, no whit less grateful to that vast number of contributors to our funds whose gifts, though smaller in amount, have often no doubt represented an even greater measure of self-sacrifice.

I do not propose to speak at any further length, as the Vice-Chancellor is the spokesman this afternoon.

The next part of the Service

The hymn " All People that on Earth do Dwell" was sung by the visitors, who were led by the University Musical Society under their conductor Mr. G. Faunce Allman.

Miss H. E. Archdale, B.A., LL.M., Principal of the Women's College, read the lesson, Ecclesiasticus, XLIV, 1-15.

The hymn Campanarum Canticum was rendered by the Musical Society.

The Registrar, Mr. W. H. Maze, M.Sc., handed to the Chancellor a list of the benefactors of the University.

The handing of the list of benefactors by the Registrar, Mr. W. H. Maze, to the Chancellor, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn

Mr. Chancellor, it is my responsibility to keep a list of benefactors of the University of Sydney. For this Service of Commemoration of Benefactors the list, during the first one hundred years since our establishment, has been printed and distributed to all those present today. The list is divided into two main parts: firstly, the private benefactors from 1853 to 1951. I would like on this occasion to draw particular attention to the donation which is third last on this list, a donation from the Sydney University Services Club. This is a donation to provide two clocks for the Great Hall as a memorial to the passage through the University of ex-Service men and women of World War II. With the help of our own Works Staff, these clocks were completed and were formally handed over to the University today. They are at present on the dais of the Great Hall for inspection after the ceremony.

In the second part of the list are the important gifts of public bodies which have been made during the last twelve years to encourage research.

Subscriptions to the Carillon, the War Memorial of the University, the Cancer Research Fund and the 75th Anniversary Appeal are also acknowledged.

The many subscribers to the Centenary Appeal are not listed, an official list will be published when the Appeal is closed.

Mr. Chancellor, I wish to formally hand to you the list of benefactors of the University.

The address given by the Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor S H Roberts

After the Master of Wesley College, the Rev. B. R. Wyllie, M.A., B.D., led the assembly in prayer, the Vice-Chancellor delivered his address:

Today is a solemn occasion in which we revive our traditional ceremony of Commemoration of Benefactors. The tone and import of the gathering have been set by that timeless invocation which you have just heard read from Ecclesiasticus. If ever there were a passage from Scripture applicable to the University it is this one, and particularly the sentence "With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance and their children are within the Covenant".

The first Commemoration of Benefactors was held in 1854 and there were functions until 1933. I always thought it a pity that in those pre-war years, when we were rushing headlong to a world crisis, a ceremony so full of meaning should have been allowed to slip into oblivion. It is thus altogether fitting that the University of Sydney should resuscitate this ceremony from the limbo of the past at a time of unprecedented difficulties and also at a time of great rejoicing, because we are now celebrating our Centenary as the oldest, the largest and, in my unswerving opinion, the great English-speaking University in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is practically one hundred years since Sir Charles Nicholson and Dr. Woolley, our first Principal, delivered addresses at the Inauguration Ceremony of the University of Sydney that will live forever. Those two speeches are so timeless in their purport and in their enunciation of the eternal academic verities that they might be repeated word for word today. Sir Charles Nicholson, as Vice Provost, quoted a fellow member of his Senate, probably William Charles Wentworth, as saying: "Behold an institution consecrated to the noblest of purposes, provided for you and your children. Accept, preserve, defend the sacred trust. Let it be to you and to them an everlasting inheritance." Sir Charles himself went on to say: "Let us carry the mind's eye onward to a period when this colony shall have acquired the form and the proportions of an empire; when the events of this age shall have become obscured by time, and circumstances which belong to our history may have the same relation to the future, which those of the Heptarchy have to this era. Then, when all the busy tumult that now agitates us shall have passed away and become obliterated in the great gulf of time, one event will stand forth in bold relief signalising the age and the men who now live. As Oxford has been associated for a thousand years with the name of Alfred, so may the names of our illustrious Sovereign, and of her representative, be perpetuated, and remembered, and honoured for ages to come in connection with that of the University of Sydney."

On the same occasion Principal Woolley quoted Sir William Hamilton, defining the basic concept of a University. To every word of that definition of one hundred years ago, reverberating as it did the recurrent ideas since the first group of University men met in the Early Middle Ages, I entirely subscribe today. Sir William Hamilton said: "The idea of a University is twofold; it is first, what its name imports, a school of liberal and general knowledge, and secondly a collection of special schools, devoted to the learned professions. Of these, the former is the University, properly so called; the second is complementary and ministerial. The former considers the learner as an end in and for himself, his perfection as man simply being the object of his education. The latter proposes an end out of and beyond the learner, his dexterity, namely, as a professional man."

It was within these lofty conceptions that the University of Sydney commenced its activities one hundred years ago. There were doubts, fears of the future, and at times a somewhat unkindly patronage from the older Universities in Great Britain. I have shown only this week to a fellow Senator documents of 1879, which express a rather naive surprise that graduates of this colonial University could compete with, and were even hoping to surpass, the products of the Isis and the Cam.

But this attitude was shattered by the progress made during and after the Badham regime. Only this week I received from one of our most respected High Court Judges a personal letter, in which he described Professor Badham as "the greatest and most outstanding man of the time" - a verdict in which as an historian I entirely concur. One of the leading items in the transformation of the Badham period was the rallying of our private benefactors. The year 1878, I should say, marked the turning point. In that year Thomas Barker, who had made an earlier benefaction in 1853, and Sir Daniel Cooper gave funds for some of the windows in our Great Hall. Sir Charles Nicholson, to whom we owe so much, contributed likewise and also in that year gave his collection of Egyptian and Classical antiquities to our Nicholson Museum, which now, in respect to certain periods and regions, is the best in the whole world. In that year too - 1878 - no fewer than ten other gentlemen contributed towards side windows in the Great Hall. Thomas Walker and the Honourable Robert Fitzgerald made contributions to our organ in the Great Hall, and J. H. Challis, a successful city merchant, while joining in the schemes for the Hall, foreshadowed that amazing benefaction which, taking into account the purchasing power of the time, has never been equalled in our annals. In 1880 the idea came to fruition with a gift of £276,000 to be used for the general purposes of the University at the discretion of each succeeding Senate. I count it as the greatest honour of my life to have been for twenty years the second Challis Professor of History in this University.

From this time onwards gifts poured in. In 1885 there occurred what was perhaps the most romantic happening associated with the University. A benefactor, of whom my predecessors knew nothing and of whom we have been unable to obtain any further information, founded the great Library of this University. He was Thomas Fisher, whose name is forever perpetuated in the Fisher Library - and what more lasting monument can any man ask than that? Thomas Fisher was accustomed to walk through the University grounds every morning on his way to his city bootshop. He had no connection with the University, but he was so impressed with the dignity and tranquillity of academic life that he gave his fortune for this purpose.

Three years later the Honourable Sir William Macleay founded our Museum of Natural History; and the James King of Irrawang Scholarships were founded to enable deserving students to pursue post-graduate activities in Universities overseas. These have given to many of the present-day leaders of the community opportunity which they would not otherwise have had.

In 1896 came one of our major benefactions. I learned only last week-end how this came about. During the long sea voyage home Challis had had discussions with a Sydney businessman, the head of a great foundry and engineering firm, as to the most profitable way of leaving one's estate for the benefit of posterity. That man was Peter Nicol Russell who, long after Challis's death, gave first £50,000 and eight years later, at the turn of the century, still another £50,000 to endow the Peter Nicol Russell School of Engineering and the Peter Nicol Russell Scholarships.

Year by year the benefactions increased; they were not all in the order of tens of thousands of pounds. The University honours and treasures the memory of those who gave the small bequests and the anonymous gifts. There is in the middle of Budapest a statue depicting the mythical figure of Hieronymous - Anonymous. The spirit of anonymity has been with our benefactors all through these decades, and never more than at the moment when several of our largest benefactors insist on absolute and complete anonymity in order that no trace of publicity, even of the most desirable kind, should be given to their gifts.

After the first world war the Honourable Sir Samuel McCaughey entered the lists as a major benefactor of the University. McCaughey, a self-made man from County Antrim, had been a pioneer pastoralist in the Riverina, at one time owning three million acres. Australia owes him a debt for his sheep-breeding experiments and for irrigation schemes at Yanco that encouraged the government to proceed with the Burrenjuck Dam. A man of unbounded generosity, he had by the time of his death in 1919 contributed in public benefactions more than any other Australian up to that time. In so far as this University is concerned we have received an income from the invested funds over the years amounting to some £17,000 per year, to be used for any purpose the Senate might decide, and this has become one of the bulwarks of University finances. The wisdom of the executors of the McCaughey Estate has meant much to the wellbeing of the University.

In 1928 the late G. H. Bosch, an importer of medical supplies, whose widow I am happy to say is still associated with University functions, contributed £257,000 to found Chairs of Medicine, Surgery, Bacteriology and Histology; and it is owing to this benefaction that Sydney is the only University in Australia to have full-time clinical chairs in certain medical fields. Though keen in business, George Bosch was a man who looked upon his great wealth primarily as a social responsibility.

So the story went on. The benefactions ranged over every conceivable field of action and enquiry. Many and varied single strands have contributed to the final multiform pattern of University benefactions. In one case it was the mother of a Highlander who died on the Dorp at Magersfontein; in another the widow of an Australian soldier who died at that terrible fight at Lone Pine or before the A.I.F. marched into the burning ruins of Bapaume; there were the relatives of many students who died in the Western Desert or in the evacuation of Greece or on the Kokoda Trail or in the rotting swamps and mud of Buna and further north; relatives, too, of the men of the Battle of Britain or of the navy or of those who flew alone over Germany. There have been gifts from American provosts and doctors stationed in our grounds, and in one case a set of books from an American Colonel who wished to express his pleasure at being shown over our buildings; and once there came a diary from behind the bamboo stockades of the Orient prison camp.

In times of peace there have been scholarships or contributions ranging from a few shillings to tens of thousands of pounds, given for objectives varying from the cure of cancer to the acquisition of a few Stone Age relics from Upper Turkey. From an unknown donor came 10s. 6d., which resulted from his reading a newspaper account of the fire in the Great Hall; and from a graduate unable to attend our ceremony today the sum of £8 18s., collected from a group of friends. From many others who were unable to attend we also received cheques. To the University, the feeling which prompted these small amounts is as important as the gifts of the rich benefactors and the great firms.

Since 1947 the impetus of benefactions has increased tremendously. In 1950 the University launched its three-years Centenary Appeal. We have had ceremonies commemorating the passage of the Local Act of Parliament by the Legislative Council in 1850; we have commemorated the centenary of the first meeting of the Senate in February, 1851. We are celebrating this year the granting of the Queen's Assent to our Act and, in the middle of next year we will commemorate the actual commencement of lectures the University of Sydney.

The Centenary Appeal, notwithstanding all the difficulties of this uncertain economic age, has brought in over £100,000, ranging from the £5,000 gifts of certain banks and the great business houses to the few shillings of the outside well-wishers. During the Appeal we were very heartened to receive an anonymous gift of £100,000 which, in full accord with the wishes of the donor, we will be devoting to the construction of the first wing of a new Chemistry building, which will mark the inauguration of our great post-war building programme.

It may be argued that people feel that people feel that the financial future of any University in Australia depends upon the various governments. To this view I do not entirely subscribe. For over 100 years the University has relied upon the goodwill of outside benefactors; and we take the view that, whereas our ordinary revenues and our government subsidies must necessarily meet day-to-day running expenses, additional capital expenditure can only come from the gifts of benefactors. This will always be the case if we are to retain our traditional independence and if we are not to become government instrumentalities.

A hundred years ago the founders of this University considered that they were passing through a time of unprecedented social and economic difficulties owing to the gold discoveries and the terrific migration consequent thereon. It is difficult to imagine what our founders would have thought had they been confronted by the social, political and economic changes that loom before us. Where they spoke in terms of a few thousand pounds we now think in terms of a million and a half pounds for current running expenses, and that amount is growing terrifically, and maybe tragically, month by month.

The very meaning and shape of University education are at stake. In common with democratic countries the world over, the Universities of Australia face a challenge, just as the community faces a challenge, the like of which has never been seen or envisaged. In this senior State we are moving towards such a complicated structure of adult education as our founders could never have contemplated in their wildest dreams. In keeping with the evolutionary events of our time we are building up a structure of University decentralisation and experiment. We have the University College at Armidale, which with our complete blessing will burgeon into a full University before the end of the year. We have the University of Technology which must develop if the industrial needs of this age and civilisation are to be met. We have the National University of Post-Graduate Schools and Research. We are already confronted with requests for Universities or University Colleges in many centres in this senior State of the Australian Commonwealth. Nobody is in the position to lay down a University blueprint for the future; but, if we in our turn do not face up to the complex problem of the future of University education, then we shall be unworthy of the birthright which we inherited from the founders - from the Wentworths and the Nicholsons, from the Merewethers and the Woolleys and the Badhams, and from their successors ever since. Whether we want it or not, and I for one certainly do, we have to have development through difference. As is the case with life, there can be no simplistic evolution. We are forced by the very pressure of events, by the logic of history, and by the inescapable facts of social change into an academic diversification. We, as the heritors of the past and the guardians of the future, must meet this challenge.

As Jason took the Argonauts with an unquestioning fixity of purpose through all the challenges that lay on the murky path to the oak-grove of Colchis, through the insolent Earth-children and the Cianian land and the Bebyrcians and the Bithynian harpies and the Chalybes with their technological innovations and the blood-red crested birds of Ares, and all those Marmoran perils - so we, with the same confidence of the Homeric Heroes, must penetrate the caves of darkness and dissidence and meet the assault of academic treasons and heresies of all kinds. And then it may be said of all of us, as the king AEetes said, ."And thou, if thou canst accomplish such deeds as these, on that very day shalt thou carry off the fleece" - the fleece that to all academicians, to all students, is the light that never was on sea or land, the consecration and the poet's dream - the grail of dispassionate and unbiassed learning.

We can do no more; we shall certainly do no less. I have the greatest confidence that when in these grounds, a century from now, our inheritors are having their two-hundredth anniversary, they will feel that we were not only transmitters but progenitors. In.the last resort that is our challenge to the timelessness of the ages.

The conclusion of the Service

The hymn "0 God our Help in Ages Past" was sung by the assembly.

The Warden of St. Paul's College, the Rev. F. R. Arnott, M.A., Th.D., announced the Benediction.

At the conclusion of the service the academic procession returned under the clock tower, through the main quadrangle to the Vice-Chancellor's quadrangle before dispersing.

Visitors immediately afterthe service were entertained at a Garden Party in the quadrangle.

The band of the First Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment provided music both at the service and at the Garden Party.

From The University of Sydney Gazette, January 1952 (University of Sydney Archives)