University anniversaries

Centenary 1950-1952

Senate Dinner for Delegates, 28 August 1952

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

The Senate dinner - held at 7.30pm for 8.00pm on 28 August 1952 in the Refectory of the University Union - was for Delegates and Professores Emeriti, in academic dress, as part of the Centenary celebrations, and was preceded by the reception of guests at 7.00pm. The Chancellor, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, presided.

Senate dinner

The Senate dinner for delegates in the Refectory of the University Union, Sydney Morning Herald photo, copies held by the University of Sydney Archives.

The Women's Union Buffet Dinner for wives of delegates and wives of Fellows of Senate was held in the Dining Room of Manning House at the same time.


The menu for the dinner was:

  • Hors D'oeuvres
  • Oyster Soup
  • Snapper Fillets and Asparagus
  • Roast Chicken and Ham, Bread Sauce, Straw Potatoes, Green Peas in Tomato Baskets
  • Pineapple and Ice Cream (served in Pineapple Shells)

Toasts and responses

1. The Queen

2. Toast to the University
Proposed by: Professor M L Oliphant
Response by: The Honourable C E Martin

3. The Delegates
Proposed by: Professor A D Trendall
Response by: His Excellency Yusuf Haroon

Toast to the University, proposed by Professor M L Oliphant

More than two hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin, then working as a printer in Philadelphia, founded his "Junto," a club of "leather-aproned philosophers" for the improvement of his fellow citizens in virtue, knowledge and practical wisdom. A candidate for admission to the Junto had to subscribe to a solemn obligation, pronounced standing and with a hand upon the heart in these words: "I love the truth for the truth's sake, and will endeavour impartially to find and receive it and communicate it to others."

These words in Franklin's oath, more accurately than any others I have heard, express the creed of every academic man, and thus the underlying duty and spirit of a university.

Franklin's Junto was a true universitas, bound together by a deep appreciation of knowledge which was sought with all the humility of the founder, but with a ruthless determination. Through the following forty years it exerted a great influence upon American thought. Universities, in the formal sense, were few in those days, and in any case these religious or semi-religious foundations had not then appreciated the stirrings of the new order of society which began with the Industrial Revolution. Such free-thinkers as Franklin would not have found a place or have been comfortable in the self-satisfied and largely comatose universities of the time. Similar spontaneous societies of men who demanded to be free to seek the truth for themselves had been formed in other countries. From one of them almost one hundred years earlier had arisen the Royal Society with its uncompromising motto, Nullius in verba. The Lunar Society, meeting later in Birmingham on moonlit nights when local travel was less hazardous, brought together the more practical minds of the Midlands.

In the end the influence of these groups of thinkers led to the conception and birth of what have been called the modern universities, which, in the last century, spread over Britain, Europe and America. In 1852, with the foundation of the University of Sydney, this movement for free universities reached Australia.

At the inaugural ceremony of this great University the Governor-General, Sir Charles Fitzroy, emphasised that the new institution would not be a preserve of the rich, but that low fees and scholarships would make it accessible to all. However, he went on to indicate that the task of the University, as envisaged by the statesmen who founded all Australian universities, was the very practical one, "to provide these higher means of instruction by which men may be fitted to discharge the duties belonging to the higher grades in society; to enable her citizens to become enlightened statesmen, useful magistrates, learned and able lawyers, judicious physicians, to enable each, in fine, to discharge with credit and ability the several duties belonging to the particular station in life in which God's providence had placed him." This view, whereby the provincial universities of Great Britain and those in Australia became institutions for training professional men, has dogged their footsteps to the present day. The University was to be a repository of knowledge, to be regurgitated for the benefit of those, from all walks of life, who wished, through the professions, to be reckoned as members of "the higher grades of society."

Yet one cannot help but feel that the founder of this "institution consecrated to the noblest of purposes," William Charles Wentworth, had a wider conception in his mind, for the first chairs in this University to be filled were those of Classics, Mathematics, and a combined chair of Chemistry and Experimental Physics!

Those who nurtured and provided materially for the infant University were actuated by the very highest of motives. They lived in a stable society inextricably linked with that of Great Britain. They could conceive of no more worthy duty than to train the professional men who upheld so well the power and dignity of the Empire. For them as for those who founded the provincial universities of Britain, society was stable and any profound change in mental attitudes was unthinkable.

Today, this greatest and oldest of the British colonial universities is faced with a different task. Now we have desperately to hold our ideals of freedom of thought and action against a growing tide of absolutism from behind the Iron Curtain, and ensure that in this struggle with evil forces we do not succumb to an equally ruthless dogmatism of our own. A return to the search for "the truth for the truth's sake" alone can make our future certain. The universities must provide the spearhead of advance towards this goal by re-affirming thefirst of their duties, the pursuit of knowledge. This pursuit must go on with transparent honesty, and no pressures from without can be allowed to deflect the inquiring mind from carrying the search into the murkiest corners of society, or towards the most recondite and apparently useless new knowledge.

Successful military defence today depends upon the rapid exploitation of new knowledge - knowledge of society as well as knowledge in the natural sciences. The great mass of this new understanding must come from the universities, or be gleaned by men who have been trained in the universities in the spirit of Franklin.

The full development of our country demands knowledge of, and hence appreciation of, the manifold problems posed by this ancient land. Imported knowledge from Europe or America can help, but it cannot produce the answers applicable to a different environment and a different society. The trust is ours and we can leave no others to bear our burdens, for they cannot bear them our way.

The proud record of the University of Sydney over its first century gives faith in an even more glorious future. From her classrooms and laboratories has flowed an ever-increasing stream of men and women who, as teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, scientists or business-men have helped to make Australia what she is. Among her graduates are many of the most honoured citizens of our country.

But there is one aspect of the University which demands changes in the future if the contribution made to the next hundred years of Australian history is to be as profound; an aspect which is shared by other Australian universities. Much greater provision must be made for travel for junior members of staff and for post-graduate research, by relieving members of staff from excessive teaching duties, by founding research fellowships and scholarships, and by an increase in funds available for equipment and apparatus. We must learn to honour achievement and give it full opportunity. Only in these ways can we retain in Australia the best of graduates who wish to pursue a career in research, and attract back again those who have won fame abroad. Only then will a post on the staff of the University be as attractive to the best scholars in the world as a similar position in Britain or America.

Let us give honour to those who founded this great institution, acknowledge proudly her illustrious sons and daughters, and determine that her traditions of one hundred years shall carry her onward, to a future where all within her walls diligently pursue the truth, and having found it, pass it to others.

Response to the Toast, by The Honourable C E Martin

I am extremely grateful to you, Mr. Chancellor, for having been offered this pleasant duty. It gives me the opportunity to respond, not only to the spirit of the Toast to our great University, but also to endeavour to put into words the response which all of us have already felt to the eloquent speech and the generous sentiments expressed by Professor Oliphant.

We in New South Wales are immensely proud of our University - so much has been achieved in the short one hundred years since studies were first commenced. Every member of our community will acknowledge his debt to the work which is done here, and to many of us the debt is a very full and personal one. That is my own position.

It was at this University, in two faculties, that I felt "like some watcher of the skies" experiencing the stimulus of knowing what vast fields there were to explore, and yet dismay at the immensity of those fields.

A short hundred years, no more; and yet, within these 130 acres of land, but lately farmlands, there can now be no man who in one lifetime can play the role of an Alexander and weep because there are no more fields to conquer. The lusty growth of the faculties, the development of the schools, and the widening of the research have caused the University's buildings to range out over more and more of its site, but there has been nothing lost of its quiet dignity and beauty.

Although we are but young, we had the example and the glory of centuries of British tradition to guide the founders of our University, and, despite the peculiar demands of our massive land, none of that tradition has been lost, nor will it be.
The Arms of the University of Sydney bears the "lion or," part of the cognisance of England and borne by the University of Cambridge - so well known to you Professor (Oliphant). It bears also the Open Book of Oxford, and the Southern Cross. There is an apt and graceful interpretation of this in the splendid booklet produced by the University's Office of Information and Public Relations. It "symbolises the translation of the same national and academic tradition to Australia as implied by the motto, 'Our spirit the same under another sky'."

That spirit is the same under all skies, and it would be well for the future of mankind if the restraints upon intellectual freedom which exist in some parts of the world were removed so that the spirit could range full free. vVe agree fully with Professor Oliphant in his plea for freedom and for the pursuit of knowledge.

This University stands upon a hill overlooking our bustling city, so that every student, coming out of the main block, may see the city's skyline and beyond to where the country lies. And every student may say to himself, "There is my mecca, my heritage, and the University has made me ready for my pilgrimage.'

The fine and graceful buildings are visible to all young people who stream past on the roads encompassing them on three sides.

The people of New South Wales are proud, too, that under our system of education, no young person with ability, no matter how humble his means, need be denied access to those buildings. This is vital to our democracy and indeed to the democratic way of life.

During the past seven years there has been great pressure upon the University as hundreds of ex-Servicemen and women have entered asking for the opportunity to make up lost years. "The Lady on the Hill" did not bow her head to this task, even when her students numbered 11,000, but serenely carried it out, making for herself hundreds more of lovers, hundreds more all over the world who will have supported this Toast with us tonight.

I believe that the past seven years will stand as one of the greatest periods of our University's history.

The Lady, still tranquil, timeless, and always lovely, continues to gaze out upon our comings and goings.

She is eternal. She will reach out still further.

Thank you, Professor Oliphant, for your charming and appreciative comments, and you, gentlemen, for your cordial acceptance of the Toast.

Toast to the Delegates, proposed by Professor A D Trendall

Mr. Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen: To do justice to this auspicious occasion in the annals of our University and to welcome in appropriate terms the Delegates present here tonight, nothing less than the lyric splendours and glowing colours of a Pindaric ode would be adequate. But a microphone is no Pegasus to bear me in lyric flight to the peaks of Parnassus - indeed, I should rather describe it as a sort of deus ex (or should I say in) machina, a device to which, as you will remember, the Greek poets had recourse only when the Muses had already deserted them and inspiration had long since fled.

But if an ode is not feasible, perhaps I may at least take the liberty of drawing on a Pindaric theme - that of hospitality and guest-friendship. By means of this happy arrangement, armed with appropriate tokens of identity, an ancient traveller might move from state to state assured, wherever he went, of a ready welcome and of heart-warming hospitality - to such an extent indeed that we read in Homer of a visitor who was feasted for nine days and nights on end before his host even thought of asking to see his credentials.

Tonight we have with us as guest-friends visitors from all parts of the British Commonwealth and from many other countries, bringing with them as tokens congratulatory messages and greetings from the various universities they represent, and it is therefore entirely right and in the best ancient tradition that we should give them "fair requital" in the form of due entertainment, hoping that they will enjoy their stay with us and feel just as much at home here as if they were in their own native lands. It is with particular pleasure that I bid them welcome to-night, since only last year I myself received kindness beyond measure at the hands of the many universities I was privileged to visit during my year on sabbatical leave.

The world to-day seems to take an ever-increasing delight in the erection of artificial barriers to travel, and it is at least some comfort to reflect that it is the academic world which seems to have had the greatest measure of success in overcoming them, for scholars are men of determination and are not easily kept from their goal - that free interchange of ideas, which, to quote Dante, is the vital nutriments of cultural life. To us, who live on earth's further confines, continual meetings with colleagues from other parts of our own vast continent, and even more from overseas, are most vital; without them we are in danger of losing touch with crucial developments or of failing to appreciate each other's problems. And so we are doubly grateful to you for gracing our Centenary with your presence and for refreshing us with your learning.

The names of the universities represented upon this occasion made a solemn and impressive roll in our Great Hall yesterday morning. This I shall not attempt to repeat, but I should like to pay a few brief personal tributes - first to Athens, which, if of comparatively recent de iure foundation, was rightly regarded in the Periclean Age as the training-school of Greece, and, since that time, of the whole world; next to Otago and Cambridge, under whose kindly care I learnt so much and to both of which I shall be for ever grateful; lastly, to Glasgow, which, by its warm welcome to me last year as Sydney delegate on the occasion of its 500th Anniversary, made me feel so much at home that I have almost come to regard myself as one of its alumni.

May I also add a special word of greeting to the Universities of Michigan and Hong Kong, so graciously represented here this evening by Mrs. Whyte and Mrs. Chung, whose presence is a charming tribute to the complete academic recognition which women have won for themselves in recent years, much to everyone's satisfaction and advantage.

Let me end, as I began, on a faintly Pindaric note, bidding my Sydney colleagues rise and drink the health of the Delegates to our Centenary Celebrations - from the old world and the new, as friends pledging friends, gladly giving, gratefully receiving, linked together in unity of aims and ideals, in sincerity of purpose and in pride of achievement.

Gentlemen - The Delegates.

Response to the Toast, by His Excellency Yusuf Haroon

Mr. Chancellor: It is a very great honour to have been chosen to respond to this Toast, and its significance will not be lost upon my people or the people of other democratic Asian countries.

I speak of Asia now because I am reminded of the sincere interest which your Vice-Chancellor, Professor Roberts, has shown in the students from this region. I have a deep and abiding respect for this gentleman who has done so much towards the development and advancement of this University, and who, at the same time, has shown such warm, human interest in the people and the affairs of other lands.

The fact that two Asian Delegates have been chosen to address this august and learned assembly indicates to me the growing awareness of the closeness of the ties between Australia and Asia. It also gives point to the words of my honourable and respected friend, Sir Douglas Copland, who said that we should consider Australia part and parcel of the Asian region. I see in your generous sharing of knowledge not only at this University, but in all spheres of Australian life, a friendly willingness to co-operate with your Asian neighbours.

I am speaking not for myself alone, for my Government, or even for the people of Pakistan. I am speaking for the inarticulate millions of this region where scientific, technical, and educational development is practically unknown, although we have the heritage of a centuries-old culture. Today, these people are thirsting after the knowledge which only the modern progressive countries of the world can give them. We watch with interest your attitude.

Mr. Chancellor, I repeat: It is an honour for both my colleague, His Excellency the Minister of the Philippines, and for me to have been chosen to address you during your ceremonies.


The University of Sydney Archives

"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