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History of the College

The origins of Queen’s College go back to the 19th century.

It was founded by the Reverend William Quick on June 16th, 1887 (Founder’s Day) on the piece of land granted by the Victorian Government to the Methodist Church.

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14 March 1888. The College opened its doors to 18 students.

The College came to be named Queen’s in response to the Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign that was celebrated in 1887. The College opened its doors to 18 students on 14 March 1888. Its first Master was the remarkable English clergyman, Dr Edward H. Sugden, who remained in office for forty years (1888-1928). By the end of his Mastership, Queen’s had grown to become the College that is still recognisable today.

Queen’s is now a College of the Uniting Church and is affiliated by statute with the University of Melbourne. Traditionally, Queen’s was a male-only residential College. In 1973 it became co-educational and now has men and women in about equal numbers as equal members. Queen’s has always been open to both resident and non-resident students regardless of their religious beliefs. Currently, there are 294 residents, including 241 undergraduates and 53 graduates. The senior members of the College act as tutors and mentors for the junior members.

An excellent and detailed account of the first hundred years of Queen’s can be found in Queen’s College University of Melbourne: a Centenary History, written by the fourth Master, Dr Owen Parnaby. While the hardcover publication, Queen’s College: A Pictorial History 1887–2012, contains an extensive visual record of the College. Both books can be purchased online here or from the College office. The College also maintains in its Archives an extensive collection of records documenting its history and development. Some 130 years on, the College is now one of the largest Colleges of the University of Melbourne and has an enviable reputation for academic, sporting and cultural excellence.

 queesn 1926

Above: Queen’s College in 1926


history southwing

Above: Looking towards the front of the College sometime around 1900 from the (now) junction of Swanston Street and College Crescent. The front of the College is the building on the right, the newly constructed South Wing is to the left. The East Wing (that now joins North and South Wing) has yet to be constructed.

history Eakins under construction

Above: Eakins Hall under construction, taken from the Close. The Master’s House is the building on the left.

The Masters

Rev. Edward Holdsworth Sugden (1854–1935)

First Master, Queen’s College, 1888–1928

Portrait of Rev. Edward Sugden, the first Master

Charles Arthur Wheeler, 1881–1977
Oil on canvas, 1909

This portrait shows the College’s first Master, the Rev. E.H. Sugden seated in the chair reserved for the Master in the College Chapel. Sugden was a Wesleyan minister, theologian, classicist and noted Shakespearean scholar. As Master of Queen’s for 40 years, Dr Sugden played a pivotal role not only
in determining the physical shape of the college, but in the development of a distinctive College culture.

The portrait was commissioned by the students’ club using monies raised from past and present students, and was presented to the Rev. Sugden on Foundation Day, 1909. Rev. Sugden gave the portrait to Queen’s College as part of the College’s 21st birthday celebrations.

Rev. Frederick Walwyn Kernick (1882–1933)

Second Master, Queen’s College, 1929–1933

Portrait of Rev. Frederick Walwyn Kernick, the second Master

Michael J. Fennell, 1970–
Oil on canvas, 1991

The Rev. F. Walwyn Kernick was an English circuit minister and Oxford scholar. This portrait was painted from photographs many years after Rev. Kernick’s early death from cancer. The commissioning of the portrait was facilitated by former Queen’s students and theologs.

Dr Raynor Carey Johnson (1901–1987))

Third Master, Queen’s College, 1934–1964

Dr Raynor Carey Johnson, the third Master

Louis Kahan, 1905–2002
Oil on maisonite 1961

A Yorkshireman by birth, Dr Johnson was a physicist and leading research scientist in the field of spectroscopy. In later years Dr Johnson became interested in paranormal phenomena and published many books based on his research into psychical experiences, eastern religions and mysticism. He is shown in this portrait wearing the academic robes of the Doctor of Science conferred on him by the University of London in 1927.

The Wyvern Society commissioned the portrait to celebrate 25 years of Dr Johnson as Master. It was unveiled at the Annual Dinner on 11 August 1961.

Further information and comment on Dr Johnson’s life can be found here.

Dr Owen Parnaby (1921–2007)

Fourth Master, Queen’s College, 1966–1986

Dr Owen Parnaby, the fourth Master

Clifton Ernest Pugh 1924–1990.
Oil on canvas, 1984

A former student and tutor at Queen’s, Dr Owen Parnaby was the first Wyvern to become Master of the College. Appointed during a period of great social change, Dr Parnaby’s mastership was notable for the introduction of co-residence for female students in 1973. An historian by training, Dr Parnaby wrote Queen’s College. University of Melbourne. A Centenary History to celebrate the College’s first 100 years. This portrait shows him in academic dress, seated in the Master’s Chair at High Table.

Dr George Anderson Macdonald Scott (1933–1998)

Fifth Master, Queen’s College, 1986–1992

Dr George Anderson Macdonald Scott, the fifth Master

Brian James Dunlop 1938–2009
Oil on canvas, 1992

A Scotsman by birth, Dr Scott’s portrait shows him in customary kilt and sporran, wearing the academic gown of the Doctor of Science conferred on him by the University of Melbourne in 1990. Dr Scott is depicted in an Australian landscape, reflecting his love of the outdoors and his academic interests as a botanist.

Rev. Dr John Henley (1940–)

Sixth Master, Queen’s College, 1993–2001

Rev. Dr John Henley, the sixth Master

Kristin Headlam 1953–
Oil on linen, 2002

An ethicist and minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Rev. Dr. Henley was the first ordained minister to be appointed to the mastership of
Queen’s College since the Rev. Kernick, in 1929. Dr Henley is depicted in characteristically contemplative pose in the College Close with its distinctive green lawns and hedge.

Professor David Runia (1951–)

Seventh Master, Queen’s College, 2002–2016

Professor David Runia, the seventh Master

Evert Ploeg 1963–
Oil on linen, 2014

Professor Runia is the second Wyvern to be appointed Master of Queen’s College. He is shown in this portrait standing at the lectern in Eakins Hall, wearing the academic robes of the Doctor of Letters conferred on him by the University of Melbourne in 2003. In the background a number of words in ancient Greek represent his academic interests. The words are horizontally ΚΟΣΜΟΣ (cosmos) and ΘΕΟΣ (God, partly hidden), vertically ΦΙΛΩΝ (Philo) and ΝΟΥΣ (mind), key terms in ancient Greek cosmology and including the name of the author that has been the chief focus of his research. The Master’s role as head of the College is symbolised by the lectern with the College’s coat of arms, in which the Wyvern is prominent as its crest. He also
wears a Wyvern tie and on the fourth finger of his lefthand the Master’s signet ring.