Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2014 Issue
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1950s: Boom times as North Terrace reaches capacity

A scene from the 1959 Prosh parade through the streets of Adelaide

A scene from the 1959 Prosh parade
through the streets of Adelaide

John Dowie carving The Soldier (photo from Tracy Lock-Weir's book John Dowie: A Life in the Round (Wakefield Press)

John Dowie carving The Soldier (photo from Tracy
Lock-Weir's book John Dowie: A Life in the Round
(Wakefield Press)

Professor Hugh Stretton

Professor Hugh Stretton

The 1950s signalled a period of sustained expansion unlike anything the University had previously known. New buildings were commissioned in North Terrace and Waite, and the long process of modernisation began. The Colombo Plan saw hundreds, and ultimately thousands, of students from across South East Asia enrich the fabric of Australian society. In the case of the University of Adelaide, strong links were forged with the Asian region that continue to this day.

By the end of the 1950s, the North Terrace campus had reached capacity and planning began for the establishment of a second campus which eventually resulted in the founding of Flinders University in the south of the city.

The University's long-standing anthropological research into Australia's Indigenous peoples gained national and international attention through the work of controversial linguist Ted Strehlow and a succeeding generation of scholars.

A legacy in sculpture

As a sculptor, painter and writer, John Dowie made an extraordinary contribution to the arts in Australia, especially in South Australia, in a career that spanned a remarkable 80 years. His first studies in art were in the mid-1920s at the South Australian School of Art. Then he studied architecture at the University of Adelaide from 1936 to 1940 while working as a draughtsman and studying at night at the School of Art. The outbreak of World War II abruptly stalled Mr Dowie's career and he served in Palestine, New Guinea and Tobruk. But it also marked a turning point.

In 1954, he was commissioned to carve a stone sculpture of a returned soldier for Michelmore's War Memorial Chapel at Roseworthy Agricultural College, and in 1957 he created another sculpture for Michelmore's Ross Smith Memorial Pavilion at Adelaide Airport. These two high-profile sculptures marked a watershed in his career, and he received an unbroken chain of public and private commissions which continued until only years before his death. Many of his more than 50 public sculptures are truly iconic South Australian art.

  • The sculpture of the returned soldier at the Memorial Chapel at Roseworthy is in need of urgent restoration work. To support this Roseworthy Old Collegians Association initiative, please contact Dick Turnbull on 0437 755 034 or email

Double honour for distinguished historian

Professor Hugh Stretton is one of the most respected Australian intellectuals of our time. A graduate of the universities of Melbourne and Oxford, where he held a Rhodes Scholarship, he was appointed Professor of the University of Adelaide's Department of History in 1954. He presided over the department's rapid expansion in the 1950s and 1960s, and shaped its teaching and research focus by appointing historians of international stature, as well as supporting younger scholars. As a result, it became widely recognised as one of the most lively and productive schools in the nation.

In 1968 Professor Stretton stepped down from the position to devote more time to writing and turned to the study of economics in retirement. He went on to hold the position of Visiting Research Fellow with the University's Department of Economics. After 35 years of service Professor Stretton formally retired from the University in 1989. Because of his exceptional and meritorious service, the University broke with tradition and awarded him two honours - the title of Emeritus Professor of History and Doctor of the University (honoris causa).

Today, the establishment of the Stretton Centre will build upon the foundational work of Hugh Stretton and has been made possible by a grant from the Suburban Jobs Program of the Australian Government and involves a partnership between the City of Playford, the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre (WISeR) at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Government through Renewal SA. Once established, the Stretton Centre will be a regional hub for integrated industry, workforce and urban development, addressing challenges and pursuing opportunities through research, collaboration and innovation.

Malaysian child health pioneer

Dr Samuel C E Abraham graduated in medicine from the University of Adelaide in 1959 and went on to become one of Asia's most highly respected medical practitioners and a founder of paediatric practice in Malaysia. Arriving in Australia as a Colombo Plan scholar in the 1950s, Dr Abraham first studied science at the University of Tasmania before taking up medicine at Adelaide. He was a resident at Lincoln College where he was integral in bridging the gap between Australian and Asian students, partly through his good humour.

A committed social activist, Dr Abraham worked for the Malaysian Government medical service for 30 years and was dedicated to improving services to the poor and children with physical and mental disabilities. During his 40-year plus career, his reputation as a compassionate advocate for underprivileged Malaysian children stretched from Asia to Britain and Australia.

Milestones and achievements

1951 Staff Club opened

1951 Inception of the Malaysian Colombo Plan

1952 Graduates Association reconstituted as the Adelaide University Graduates Union

1952 Lincoln and Aquinas colleges open

1958 Opening of Union Hall

1955 Victor Allen Edgeloe, University historian, promoted to Registrar, remaining until 1973


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