Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Summer 2008 Issue
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Spirit of Generosity Lives On

Sir Walter Watson Hughes set out to find adventure - and ended up founding a university. Today the spirit of University of Adelaide's 'founding father' lives on, in a new society of donors bearing his name.

It was 1840 when the Scottish ship's captain decided to settle more than 16,000 kilometres from his birthplace in the four-year-old colony of South Australia, then barely populated by free settlers. Life on the newly-settled land required tenacity, vision and a sense of adventure - but produced rich rewards for those ready to meet its challenges.

Hughes proved he had the right traits, and made his fortune when copper was discovered on his property at Wallaroo. Luckily for the colony, Hughes believed in giving something back: in 1872, he donated a staggering 20,000 to an Adelaide college - a gift which so exceeded the college's expectations, it decided to found a university.

The University of Adelaide came into being in 1874, giving Australia its third university and South Australian youth the chance to continue their education without moving interstate or abroad.

"Sir Walter Watson Hughes is an inspirational example of the difference that generosity can make, both to individuals and the wider society," says the University of Adelaide's Planned Giving Officer, Sue Fox.

Hughes' benevolence set in motion a great legacy: the University of Adelaide has more than 100,000 graduates to date, 102 Rhodes Scholars and five Nobel Laureates.

"It all started with Hughes," says Sue. "The history of giving has played such a key role in the University's development. That's why we have chosen him as the face, and the inspiration, for a new society of donors who have remembered the University in their will."

The Hughes Bequest Society was launched in October by Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Adelaide, Professor James McWha, with over 50 guests in attendance. Sue says Society members are following in the founder's footsteps.

"Like Hughes, their generosity will make a real difference to education. Their gifts will support not only students, but also the innovative and sometimes life-changing research programs at the University - everything from medical research to creating an environmentally-sustainable world."

Sue says the Society gives the University a way to say 'thank you' to a group of donors who could go unrecognised during their lifetime.

"While donors have planned their gift now, the University will not receive, or sometimes even be aware of their generosity, until some time in the future. It's wonderful to have the chance to say 'thank you' now." ■


To find out more, please contact Development and Alumni on (08) 8303 3234 or visit

Donor Murray Nelson and Sue Fox from Development & Alumni.

Donor Murray Nelson and Sue Fox from Development & Alumni.
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Michael Klobas, Adrienne Lovelock, Judy Klobas.

Michael Klobas, Adrienne Lovelock, Judy Klobas.
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The statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes in front of the Mitchell Building North Terrace.

The statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes in front of the Mitchell Building North Terrace.
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