Peter Waite was one of South Australia’s most significant public benefactors. The Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide is on land gifted by Peter Waite to the University in 1914.
In October 1913 Peter Waite wrote to the Premier of South Australia, Hon. A. H. Peake, and the Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, the Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Way, informing them that subject to his own and his wife’s life interests, he intended presenting the Urrbrae property of 54 hectares to the University. The eastern half was to be used for scientific studies related to agriculture and the western half as a public park. He also intended handing over 45 hectares adjoining Urrbrae to the Government of South Australia for the purpose of establishing an agricultural high school. This statement of intent was subject to South Australian Parliament making the gifts free of succession duty.
In explaining his gift Peter Waite wrote:
I have been much influenced by the wonderful work our agriculturalists and pastoralists have accomplished hitherto in face of the very great odds they have had to meet. With comparatively little scientific training they have placed our wheat, wool and fruits in the highest estimation of the world; our sheep have been brought to such perfection that they're sought after not only by all the sister States but by South Africa. Our agricultural machinery has been found good enough even for the Americans to copy; and our farming methods have been accepted by other States as the most up-to date and practical for Australian conditions. We have now reached a point when it behoves us to call science to our aid to a greater extent than hitherto has been done, otherwise we cannot hope to keep in the forefront.Peter Waite
In 1915 Peter Waite bought the Claremont Estate of 21 hectares and 45 hectares of the foothill part of the Netherby Estate, both of which adjoined Urrbrae, transferring their ownership to the University of Adelaide.
Before his death Peter set aside shares in Elder Smith & Co. Ltd. for the purpose of providing income to the University for the advancement of agricultural education.
Peter Waite was undoubtedly a generous man. His name could be found as a large contributor to public appeals in the later years of his life, for example to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital and the Presbyterian Girls School. Peter also paid for the bronze memorial to the members of the staff of Elders Smith & Co. who served in World War.
Peter and Matilda Waite died in 1922 in their 88th and 86th years respectively. In early 1923 the Urrbrae property was handed over to the University which established the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in 1924 on the site.
Three daughters, Elizabeth, Lily and Eva, survived their parents. They, with their brother James, later made generous gifts to the University of Adelaide to support the work of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute.
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