Sir Walter Watson Hughes
On the 24th day of December 1872, a Deed of Covenant was executed between Walter Watson Hughes and Alexander Hay, Treasurer, University Association whereby a gift of £20,000 was made to the University, its sole use for the funding of two chairs - one in Classics and Comparative Philology and Literature, and the other in English Language and Literature and Mental and Moral Philosophy. Those chairs were to be filled by Rev Henry Read and Rev John Davidson. These conditions tested the mental processes of the people and press of Adelaide; although they considered the recipients of the professorships worthy of the task, there were no funds available to construct the University buildings. In effect, argued one journalist, the gift from Hughes was a stimulus for the University Association and public to gain further funds and to move the foundation of a university further ahead.
Hughes is often referred to as the father of the University of Adelaide because of his generous gift to establish two foundation professorial chairs. Following his example, other like-minded generous South Australians also contributed funds and made possible the foundation of the University of Adelaide in 1874.
Today, Sir Walter Watson Hughes' contribution is marked by the Hughes Building, the Hughes Plaza and two sculptures of Hughes - a marble bust in the Bonython Hall foyer and, most notably, a classical bronze sculpture in front of the Mitchell Building by Francis John Williamson (1833-1920) (pictured).
Hughes' legacy is also recognised today by the Hughes Society. Through the Society, the University shows those who leave a bequest to the University during their lifetime, how much we appreciate their generosity.
Text from The Spirit of Knowledge, A Social History of the University of Adelaide North Terrace Campus, by Rob Linn and published by the Barr Smith Press.
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