A Society is Formed
The Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney was established on 22 March 1910 with a student enrolment of 16 students. Two years after opening its doors, the Director of the school, Professor James Douglas Stewart (pictured right), expressed interest in the formation of a society in connection with the Department of Veterinary Science.
On Friday 17 May 1912, a general meeting comprised of Professor J.D. Stewart, Dr. Sydney Dodd, Mr. Horace Morgan Baker and 14 students gathered in the Anatomy Theatre at 2:30 P.M. to form a society, adopt a constitution and elect officers. The formation of the Society was proposed by Mr. Hindmarsh, seconded by Mr. Pattern and unanimously carried. After 3 long hours of debate and voting, the first Constitution of the Sydney University Veterinary Society was drafted and adopted, with Prof. JD Stewart elected as President, Dr. Dodd and Mr. Baker as Vice Presidents, ES James as Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer and Davis, Finlay and Hindmarsh voted as part of the executive committee.
The Society initially started off as a common ground for members to further their knowledge in the veterinary profession, with the Society holding regular discussions and meetings, as well as organising regular addresses by those in the profession. In 1913, the first Annual Dinner of the Society took place in Adam’s Café, George Street, Sydney (pictured right). This event, along with the Annual Dance, would become the Society’s biggest social events until the inception of BBGrog (Bar-B-Grog). Eventually both would reform and evolve over the years to what it is today - VetSoc’s annual Vetball. In 1914, the world was ensued in the First World War (WWI), where one of the founders of the Society, H.M. Baker, tragically died in conflict. With the war having such an effect on the Faculty, the Society became inactive for two years between 1915 and 1917. This was fortunately short-lived and the Society resumed its activities towards the end of WWI.
A Transfer in Leadership
For the first eight years of its activities, the Society was presided over by a member of staff, alternating between Professor J.D. Stewart and Dr. S. Dodd. In 1920, however, the administration of the Society was completely transferred to the student body with then-student, Dr. I. Clunies Ross, elected as the first student president of the Society, making the Sydney University Veterinary Society the second oldest student-run society on campus and only preceded by the University of Sydney Union itself. This momentous occasion, however, was short-lived. With low student numbers, much doubt and concern lingered on the future of the Faculty and the Society.
Growth & Expansion
1930 saw the admittance of the first female student of the Faulty of Veterinary Science and the first female member of the Society, Ann Flashman. By the mid-1930s, the Society began to flourish as student intake by the Faculty steadily increased. With a greater student base, funding for the Society increased and more social activities were organised as a result, slowly establishing VetSoc’s reputation for social events. In 1936, the Society established a library to further benefit members’ knowledge in the general sciences and the veterinary profession. This library would continue to function for several decades until being transformed into the Faculty office as it is today. The Society established its first annual publication, Centaur, in 1937 to create a historical account of the achievements and lives of the students within the Society and Faculty. Centaur would grow and is still continuing today!
In 1939, Australia entered WWII subsequent to the invasion of Poland. By the early 1940s, many scalpels were laid down in exchange for arms, as students in the Faculty entered the war. With decreasing student numbers and focus spent on the war, the Society (among others) struggled during this period, making it impossible to hold events such as the Annual ball despite the best of efforts of the Society. With this, the Society’s annual publication, Centaur, had its first absence. It is with great regret that students within the Faculty lost their lives fighting under the Australian flag.
Rising from the Ashes
With the cessation of hostilities in Europe and Asia and the resumption of the normal academic calendar saw a turning point in the activity of the Society. Greater numbers enrolled in the Faculty led to increase funding for the Society and led to more successful events. Despite growing numbers in the Faculty and Society, participation in meetings and non-social events continued to struggle due to a lack of interest. The Society had to reinvent itself catering to changing conditions that arose from post-WWII. Social events began to predominate their academic counterparts, effectively changing the face of the Society to what it is today.
A Turn in the Tide
As the decades rolled, the Society transformed itself markedly from the roots of sharing academic information into a society infamous for its social events. This led to an ever increasing membership count as students finally began to show a sense of pride in their degree. This in turn supported the Society’s treasury balance to hold better events and contribute to the Faculty. A higher intake of females led to more even sex ratios within the Faculty and this too changed the landscape of social events. Gone were the Annual Dance and Parade Floats, replaced with the ever popular BBGrog and Vetball. In 1960, BBGrog had completely relocated to Camden, making the event raunchier as ever. As time passed, the rising prominence of women in the Faculty and profession eventually led to the removal of the Executive position of Women’s Representative. The 80’s saw the Society’s short name changed from S.U.V.S. to VetSoc as well as our first female President, Susan Cook in 1982.
In 1996, the Faculty began construction on the Veterinary Science Conference Centre on the Camperdown campus, with the Society providing a donation to benefit students. As the Sydney Olympics blazed past at the turn of the century in 2000, the Faculty began to separate junior and senior years of Veterinary Science, creating a need for a new sister society to represent the senior years on the Camden campus. This gave birth to Camden Farms Society and would from thereon organise BBGrog (officially changed to Camden Weekender in 2010). The Faculty began its preparation for its own centenary in 2010, refurbishing the historical J.D. Stewart, Clunies Ross Lecture Theatre and the Roundhouse. In 2011, unbeknown to the newly elected 98th committee, the centenary of the Society was fast approaching. It was only until creating content for the new VetSoc website did we stumble (accidently) that we would preside over our centenary! As a centenary gift, the Society presented the Faculty with a plaque commemorating the momentous event. And the rest they say is history...
Written by Aaron Koey, Hon. Secretary 2011-12. This historical overview of the Sydney University Veterinary Society has been derived from old records, the Society’s annual publication Centaur and the Faculty’s centenary publication, The School at the Foot of the Hill