Lumen - The University of Adelaide Magazine The University of Adelaide Australia
Lumen Winter 2014 Issue
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Celebrating 140 years: University founders deliver on a grand vision

The University's first Vice-Chancellor, Augustus Short's background as a diligent parish priest and respected Oxford don made him appreciate the importance of a well-rounded education.

Dr Augustus Short

Dr Augustus Short

From the time of his arrival in Adelaide in December 1847 as the newly minted bishop of a vast area that included South Australia and the whole of Western Australia, he was determined to ensure that education in all its forms contributed to the spiritual and social life of the developing colony. Dr Short was focused not only on the pastoral care of his community, but on the development of the South Australian community as a whole.

He knew from his own experience the opportunities that a good education could provide, and he used his leading position in society in a strategic way to strive for the noble objective of education for all. Within 18 months of his arrival he had laid the foundation stone of St Peter's College, and within 20 years the possibility of a University was being seriously debated.

Dr Short was a strong believer that education would be vital in forging a common identity and culture in South Australian society - and a university was essential to help deliver that vision. He gathered a formidable band of allies comprising church and state leaders to work on what was an extraordinarily ambitious proposal for such a thinly-populated colony.

It is hardly surprising that the new University of Adelaide's first Commencement Ceremony saw the conferral of degrees on more than 70 colonists who were already graduates of English, Scottish, Irish and European universities. Together they formed the Senate, and they were the University's first alumni.

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.

The University claimed a staff of international distinction, providing a first-class education that would see Adelaide graduates counted among the best in the world. Even today the University can count five of the 15 Australian winners of the Nobel Prize among its alumni, and is consistently ranked among the top one per cent of universities worldwide.

From such humble beginnings, the recent graduations in 2014 have seen the number of our alumni swell to more than 150,000. Today Adelaide graduates are living and working all over the world and - in the case of our famous graduate Andy Thomas - even in space.

In this issue of Lumen we look at just a few of the remarkable individuals, past and present, who have made the University of Adelaide what it is today. We also reflect on the unique value that philanthropy has brought and continues to bring to the University.

For more information on some of the key individuals and events in the University's history go to our Interactive Timeline at

story by Peter Burdon

Celebrating 140 years: Join in our birthday activities

On 6 November we will celebrate the 140th anniversary of the enactment of the legislation that founded the University of Adelaide, a date that will provide a climax for a year of activities. This year-long program of events and activities highlights the University's excellence and innovation and significant achievements. These events are an opportunity to celebrate a milestone in the University's history while promoting the future of Adelaide as a world-class university.

You can discover more about our calendar of events at


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