Fund Raising from the 1850S to the 1960S

Fund Raising from the 1850S to the 1960S

(A paper given by Alan Atkinson, with the title “Learning, Piety, Nostalgia: Why Men and Women Gave Money to St Paul’s College”, at the Sydney University colloquium on “University Philanthropy and Public Enterprise”, 8 June 2011.)

St Paul’s College was founded in the 1850s. From the beginning its role and position were ambiguous. It was to be a college within the new University of Sydney but also to exist “in connexion with” the Anglican Church. It was established with funds contributed partly by the colonial government and partly by private donation. Also, the moment of its foundation was one in which, in political terms, an old land-owning elite was on the point of giving way to an energetic liberal democracy, and in a strong sense the College was caught between the two.

Again, the gold-rush of this period supposedly created a culture of crass materialism in New South Wales and Victoria.   And yet, the mass of new money also nourished large visions, not only of national greatness (each colony being seen as an incipient nation), but also of moral, cultural and intellectual improvement. The University itself had been planned from the late 1840s, before the discoveries near Bathurst, but it was reconceived on much larger and more splendid lines thanks to gold, and underpinned by more elaborate ambitions.

The College was also a direct product of a particularly fertile, contentious and ambitious period for the Anglican Church in Australia. For the ensuing century St Paul’s sat somewhere close to the centre of plans to give the Church a national significance in the antipodes, and to give the nation, whether New South Wales or Australia, a religious ­- even an ecclesiastical – dimension. Those responsible were a small but influential minority within the hierarchy of the Australian Church.  The energy and range of these ambitions – a distinctive form of Australian conservatism – have never been comprehensively explored.[1]  But they moved numbers of men and women to give money to the College.

During the mid 1850s, the principal founder, Chief Justice Sir Alfred Stephen, spent considerable time on the bench scribbling pleading letters to friends and associates. Partly as a result, a total of £27,000 (half from government) was raised to build, or to begin building, the College. A good number of benefactors were clergymen, whose generosity, given that they were not well paid, is testimony to the hopes held out for the College, as a bulwark of Anglicanism. The bulk, however, were laymen prominent in the councils of the Church. Some of these, including the very largest contributors (Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, Thomas Ware Smart, Robert Ebenezer Johnson), were clearly entranced with the idea of reshaping Anglicanism in the Antipodes, and of giving the local Church a deep Tractarian foundation. They envisaged St Paul’s as a home not just for Puseyite theology, for sacred art and sacred music, but also for related notions of the common good. It was to educate devout and high-minded statesmen.[2]

Other subscribers were no doubt more concerned with ensuring that their sons could take advantage of Sydney University by living in a college of the Oxford-Cambridge type. Several in the southern highlands (J.W. Chisholm, William Pitt Faithfull, J.S. Futter) were men of large acres with offspring who did in fact come to St Paul’s in due course. On the other hand, contributors from around Bathurst, in the west, included a good number who probably gave because they had more money than they knew what to do with – Bathurst being then the epicentre of the New South Wales gold-rush. The gold-rush was fundamental to everyone’s generosity. But gold was not unlimited. By 1859, with building only half complete, the boom had ended and all donations ceased.

During the rest of the nineteenth century, apart from a brief and successful campaign to build a home for the Warden, in 1885-86, there was no concerted effort to raise funds for the College. A few large sums came in from individuals for the foundation of scholarships, but at this point, wealthy Anglicans were relatively uninterested  in making University education more accessible to the middle classes – less than Roman Catholics and much less than Presbyterians, judging from the scholarships available at the other two colleges, St John’s and St Andrew’s.  St Paul’s was never deliberately exclusive, but nor was it deliberately inclusive either.

However, Anglicans did see a need to keep up the numbers of their clergy and the influence of their Church, if necessary by making it possible for young men of slender means to train for Holy Orders. Of the scholarships and book prizes offered by the College at the turn of the century nearly all were for work in Divinity classes, typically taken by the Warden, and for students aspiring to be clergymen.[3]

All this changed as the College created its own numerous body of alumni, most of them laymen. This happened about the turn of the century. From 1882 there had been a steady increase in the numbers of students entering each year, so that by the early years of the twentieth century there was community of Old Paulines with their own strong sense of the main virtues and purpose of the College.   The St Paul’s College Union, founded in 1891 for past and present students, helped the process, adding directly, for instance, to the number of former students elected to the College’s governing body.   In 1910 a twice-yearly (later annual) magazine, the Pauline, was started, in an effort to keep the wider College community in touch with the achievements and needs of its alma mater. By 1920 the term “College tradition” was beginning to carry a peculiar weight and magic of its own, among both past and present men, and it affected nearly everything the College did.

It was hard to argue for more buildings while numbers of students were uncertain, but by 1908 the demand for places in College was clearly outstripping supply, and Council now authorised the completion of the original plan, at an estimated cost of £10,000. The first instalment, costing about £5000, was to include the Tower, 24 new student rooms, eight bathrooms, two large lecture rooms and servant accommodation.[4]  As the original government commitment had not yet been used up, part of the money was to come from the NSW Treasury.

The leading figure in the fundraising campaign was the barrister David Merewether, who had been in College in the early 1890s and had only just been elected to Council. It was Merewether and men like him, former students now in their 30s and 40s, who were to set the tone for such efforts in future. Their ambitions were inward-looking and they appealed, not to sectarian, Christian or scholarly idealism, but to College loyalties, and an entrenched rivalry with other, newer colleges. Without more rooms, so their campaign leaflet said, many students would go elsewhere, “to the present and future detriment of St Paul’s”.[5]  St Andrew’s College, already 50 percent bigger thanks to new buildings, was the main threat.[6]  The Rawson Cup – the great prize for intercollegiate sport – had been awarded for the first time in 1907 and, unsurprisingly in view of their numbers, St Andrew’s was to hold it for most of the next four decades.

This effort was to set the pattern for the remainder of the twentieth century. The leading theme was the College experience, powerful in memory but limited in reach. Besides alumni, the main donors were to be their near relations, fathers, sisters, widows, who knew that experience at second hand. However, money was slow to come in. Though substantial compared with previous years, the alumni body was still small and relatively young. Many were men with growing families, who could not afford to be free with their money. The very rich were still scarce. After six years, at the start of World War One, only £800 had been collected, a fraction of what was needed.[7]  Nevertheless the extension afterwards called the Radford Wing was complete in 1915.

The effort was renewed in 1920 and the extension now called the Garnsey Wing was completed in 1921. By this time a new and remarkably ambitious building plan had been adopted, so as to accommodate nearly 200 students (the current number being 53). The campaign now concentrated on the increased size of the University’s student population, and on the perceived need to be able to offer a room in College to every student who applied for one. In short, the organisers seem to have believed that they had a responsibility to keep in step with the University as it responded to a twentieth-century national demographic, opening itself up to increasingly large numbers.[8]

However, there was no hint of any larger idealism – of any need to make tertiary education itself more widely accessible.   Certainly, the campaigners stated their regret “that numbers of Church of England men, through inability to pay the College fees, are compelled to forego the advantages of college life”.[9] But this was an argument incidental to the main campaign, aimed at individuals who might bequeath money for scholarships.

Once again, the response was disappointing, even before the 1930s Depression intervened. Meanwhile, estimated costs rose sharply. By 1934, when ambitions had fallen back to accommodation for only 90-95 students, the immediate target was put at £25,000, with £25,000 more needed for a chapel and library. In 1938, when a more skilled and concerted campaign began, the aim was £80,000.[10]  So, while alumni were multiplying and, presumably, getting richer as they got older (though the Depression had set many back), the sum asked of them was growing even more rapidly.

Nevertheless, the Warden of the day, Arthur Garnsey, had very large intellectual ambitions for St Paul’s, larger than any since the 1850s. His deep involvement with the University plus his Broad-Church idealism made him extravagantly hopeful about raising and spending money. He wanted to reconfigure the relationship between College and University, and to give a higher standing to residential learning.  St Paul’s, he said, should have funds sufficient “to establish and maintain scholarships, lectureships and a strong tutorial staff; and it should command the means to promote research, both extensive and intensive, in some of the many subjects of study proper to a University, as well as the systematic exposition and defence of the Christian Faith, which alone would justify its existence as a Church University College”. With its Christian foundations thus strengthened, it would help “to assert the dignity of theological learning and to leaven the life of the University with the wholesome influences of sound religion”. By that he meant religion open to all the diversity of human experience and opinion.[11]

Money-raising methods, though more sophisticated than hitherto, had no connection whatever with Garnsey’s idealism, which might as well have been left unstated.   Alumni were still the main, and really the only hope, and campaigners appealed shamelessly to nostalgia and old fellowship. A number of former students volunteered to raise money among their contemporaries. Each man was to send out 25 form letters notifying his old friends of his own intention to donate a small sum annually for ten years on condition that ten others would do the same. The method was mechanical and the tone artificially cheery, with references to “the extension of our dear old buildings where we had such a happy and hectic time goodness knows how many years ago”. What a pity, went one variation on this theme, “that anyone should have to be turned away and so miss the good times we had at College”.[12]

Alumni might well have been struck by the falsity of this approach. Certainly, one munificent alumnus, Mr Frank Albert, gave £500 and promised the same again if ten others did likewise.[13]  But otherwise donations were not only small but also scanty. Besides, they were soon cut short by World War Two. Yet another effort was made in 1947, but it was short-lived and dominated by a single large benefactor, the newspaper proprietor Sir Hugh Denison, whose three sons had been to St Paul’s.

Only in the 1950s do we see the beginning of a skilled, concerted and sustained campaign to raise money from the now considerable number of College alumni. A hesitant start having been made in 1952, two years later the accountant W.J. Southey Wilson took charge. It had always been standard practice to take donations by instalments. But Wilson had a flair for the business. As he explained afterwards, the sums coming in were mostly small, between $4 and $40, though a few were as much as $2000, and these undoubtedly made the difference. Wilson caught an historic wave.  He took advantage of the economic optimism of the post-war decades and of the large numbers prepared to make their own contribution, big or small, to a great period of nation-building.  And at last there were numbers of Old Paulines whose age (or the age of whose children) and whose bank accounts allowed them to be generous. Within two years Wilson had raised $8050, with about 250 subscribers sending contributions more or less regularly.   The final total, raised between 1955 and 1963, was $43,400, which with considerable government help allowed for the extension of College numbers by 40 percent and the building of a very fine Chapel.[14]

Wilson put his success down to two things. He was himself a Pauline, and therefore trusted by his fellows, but, on the other hand, he never made personal requests. Everything was done by generalised correspondence.   He did so well that in the end donors did not want to stop.   “[They] strongly urged me”, he said, “to organise another appeal for some other College project”.[15]

Considering this story over all, it is clear that between the nineteenth and the mid-twentieth centuries the College changed in the minds of benefactors from a public cause to a private one, from an institution of public significance to one which mattered mainly for what it had done for them at a crucial period in their own lives. Large-minded educational schemes such as that of Arthur Garnsey, though entirely consistent with the reasons for the College’s foundation, did not figure in day-to-day arguments for money. There were not seen as persuasive. And yet, the most effective attitudes to fund-raising shifted in the other direction, from the personal and direct (soliciting by private letter or even face-to-face) to the detached and generalised. Gone were the published lists of donors, with precise sums against each name. Now it might even be hard to tell who gave and who did not.

This was, of course, not the end of the story. The establishment of the St Paul’s College Foundation in 1977, while a natural outcome of Wilson’s work, introduced a new dynamic into the business of fund-raising for the College, which I will not explore here.  The Foundation has been enormously successful, raising over $15 million for the College. However, in keeping with established practice, its main focus has been on buildings and scholarships. Its brief extends to “state of the art student facilities”, but not to the kind of systematic educational initiatives sketched by Arthur Garnsey.[16]  The idea that the Pauline community or anyone else might be tempted to fund “state of the art” education at the College has not yet been tested.

During the twentieth century giving became a test of feeling, and the degree of feeling has been to some extent a private matter. This is consistent with what the great American sociologist-historian Richard Sennett has called “the fall of public man”.[17] Public rank, public manners, public idealism and public responsibility are no longer the main test of civic virtue. Private feeling and private virtue – common decency – the qualities that define us as family figures, and in this case as alumni and old friends, matter more.

A university college can no longer be witness to religious attachment, as St Paul’s was designed at first to be. Money, once a means of demonstrating public virtue and public rank, is now more often a means of expressing feeling and reinforcing intimacy.  St Paul’s College has benefitted, financially and in many other ways, from being a place of intense feeling. Within its own circle, it evokes deep loyalties.  As the reference to Arthur Garnsey shows, it was difficult to connect those loyalties with ideas about the educational role of the College, as a place which could enlarge students’ minds in ways the University could not do.

Increasingly during the twentieth century the motivation for giving was proprietorial. It was right and fitting that “our” college, our some-time home, should be maintained with our money, especially, from an individual point of view, as our children become less dependent on family resources. The great achievement of the St Paul’s College Foundation has been to build up that sense of on-going responsibility.

This is in contrast with the motivation of the founders, and of men such as Arthur Garnsey, who thought of the College as an institution established for public purposes, which were to be worked out in collaboration with the Church and the University.   According to the first view, the main aim of fundraising is to preserve, to improve on an existing model, to remember, to celebrate and to move incrementally forward. The second view is capable of re-envisaging. It can seem to threaten the existing model.  It is open-ended.  It was open-ended in the 1850s, it was open-ended in Garnsey’s day and it continues to be open-ended, in each case depending on the way the College can best meet the needs of its generation.


[1] For example, see Peter Hempenstall, The Meddlesome Priest: A Life of Ernest Burgmann (Sydney 1993).
[2] Benefactors of St Paul’s College (Sydney 1859) (in St Paul’s College Archives, hereafter SPCA); Hamish Milne, “The Origins of St Paul’s College”, BA thesis, University of Sydney 1995, p. 59; Alan Atkinson, Building Jerusalem: A History of St Paul’s College (forthcoming).
[3] University of Sydney Calendar, 1900, pp. 327-8.
[4] St Paul’s College Council Minutes, 14 March 1907, 18 June 1908, College Archives.
[5]
[6] Hamish Milne, “St Paul’s College: Another Fifty Years, 1900-1950”, MPhil thesis, University of Sydney 1997, p. 25. It will be clear that I owe a great deal to this thesis.
[7] The Revd Dr L.B. Radford, Commemoration Day address (typescript), 21 May 1914, College Archives 77/14.
[8] Milne, “St Paul’s College: Another Fifty Years, 1900-1950”, pp. 68-71.
[9] St Paul’s College, Extension of College: Building Funds (Sydney 1920).
[10] St Paul’s College Calendar, 1934, p. 47; Labour Daily, 16 June 1938.
[11] St Paul’s College Calendar, 1938-39, p. 47; Appeal booklet 1938, College Archives 77/15.
[12] Proposed form letter, minutes of meeting of appeal committee, 14 September 1938, College Archives 77/15.
[13] Milne, “St Paul’s College: Another Fifty Years, 1900-1950”, p. 169.
[14] A.P. Elkin, “St Paul’s College: An Historical Sketch”, St Paul’s College Calender 1964-65, pp. 12-18; W.J. Southey Wilson, report, 19 November 1968, College Archives 77/19.
[15] Wilson, report, 19 November 1968.
[16]St Paul’s College Foundation”,
[17] Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (New York 1977).

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment” lao tzu