William Anderson, a Scot with an M.A. was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Auckland University 1920. William was educated in Stonehouse and Hamilton Academy. His main interest was idealist philosophy.
The headmasters log book of Camnethan Street School records the following on 14th January 1921: “Yesterday a former pupil of this School, Mr William Anderson, M.A., son of the Headmaster, left Glasgow for New Zealand, having been recently appointed Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy in Auckland College (New Zealand University).”,
William stayed at Sauchrie Cottage in Stonehouse and came from a Scottish family of left-wing socialists, his father was the head teacher at Camnethan Street School. He was the older brother of John Anderson also a philosopher (refer to separate page for information on John).
William became a Guild Socialist and joined the National Guilds League in about 19 15. In London in that year he came to know A. R. Orage and published several articles in his journal, the New Age, advocating guild socialism.25 In New Zealand, however, if not earlier, he became extremely conservative in both political and educational matters. He became a friend of Grossmann, and of the zoologist, W. R. McGregor; the trio united in opposing almost all changes. In 1928 Anderson recruited a very able lecturer, R. P. (Dick) Anschutz, a brilliant Auckland graduate who had been awarded the Milford Prize in Philosophy,which was open to all Australian and New Zealand students,for an essay on pragmatism.
William was at the centre of the greatest scandal in the history of the College / University, the events leading to the dismissal of ]. P. Grossmann, who was now the Professor of History. Grossmann had befriended the new philosopher, William Anderson, and begun borrowing money from him in 1921. Anderson was very gullible. Grossmann shortly afterwards began to get him to endorse promissory notes. (In Canterbury he had forged his friends’ signatures.) This practice went on for years, with Anderson believing, each time he signed, that the new loan which he was guaranteeing was repaying the previous one. Moreover, Grossmann explained that there were two forms for promissory notes, and that he did not know which would be required. He induced him to sign two, and on one occasion four, at a time. Grossmann used all of these. Some of these forms were blank as to amounts or names. Then Grossmann began speculating in land, with Anderson guaranteeing the mortgages. Anderson was now told that the moneys received from the sale or re-mortgaging of the sections would pay off the debts on promissory notes. Anderson thought that he was helping ‘a colleague in distress’. In 1931 Grossmann confessed to Anderson that he had been multiplying the latter’s obligations while professing to reduce them. Instead of being liable, as he supposed, for £400, Anderson owed £2,600-double that in modern dollars, but no doubt the equivalent of many thousands of dollars in real terms. Grossmann’s explanation was that he had been struggling all his life to overcome the heavy expenses involved in the care of his mentally disturbed wife and intellectually handicapped child. The fact remained that he had been a rogue, albeit a remarkable one, in Canterbury and again in Auckland. He had joined the staff when there was no superannuation and had been allowed to stay on: he was now sixty-eight. Council dismissed him out of hand.? Such was his extraordinary reputation that the Students’ Association sent him a letter of appreciation. His friends-including the Mulgans-hustled him off to Sydney, where he became a journalist, as he had been much of the time at Auckland. The episode ruined Grossmann and embittered Anderson.
Sinclair Keith. 1983. A History of the University of Auckland. Auckland: Auckland University Press.
The Australian Journal of Philosophy volume 33 in December 1955 carried a In Memoriam article on Professor Anderson .