Sir Thomas Elder

Sir Thomas Elder

Sir Thomas Elder
Image courtesy of State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 34518

The task of establishing the University was supported by the State and the generosity of Sir Walter Watson Hughes and Sir Thomas Elder who each gave the astonishing sum of £20,000 - many millions of dollars today - to the new institution. From the outset there were also hundreds, and in time thousands, of citizens of the colony who voluntarily supported the University with their time, money, and their reputations.

Sir Thomas Elder was a founding member of Elder Smith and Company.

The University owes much to Sir Thomas, and amongst its list of benefactors, no other name figures so prominently.  The list of donations and bequests by Sir Thomas to the University is as follows:-

£20,000 as an endowment for Chairs in Mathematics and Natural Science

£10,000 as an endowment for the foundations of a School of Medicine

£1,500 in support of a Chair in Music

£1,000 as an endowment of Evening Classes

£1,000 to enable the Council to establish full medical curriculum

Sir Thomas Elder died in 1897 bequeathing £65,000 to the University  - £20,000 for the School of Medicine, £20,000 for the School of Music and £25,000 was left available for the general purposes of the University.

The Elder Conservatorium of Music was accordingly established in 1898, and the Conservatorium building was completed in 1900.

Sir Thomas Elder Statue

The bronze statue of Sir Thomas Elder in front of Elder Hall, North Terrace, Adelaide.

In addition to the above gifts, in 1883 Sir Thomas founded a scholarship for South Australian students at the Royal College of Music (RCM), London.  Further monies were donated to the University from various donors to support the student in receipt of the Scholarship at RCM.  This fund is known as "The Elder Overseas Scholarship", and continues today as one of the University's most prestigious music scholarships.

....The Members of the Adelaide University Association trust that both yourself and Mr Hughes may be long spared to see the good fruits of your munificence and are well assured that your names as founders and patrons of the University of Adelaide will not only live in the affectionate remembrance of the present generation, but be handed down to the grateful respect of those students who shall hereafter receive instruction in the halls of this institution and under the professors who will be appointed through your liberality.Extract from a letter to Sir Thomas Elder from the Adelaide University Association, 8 December 1874



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Jackie Morris
Trusts Officer
08 8313 5804