A new Dean

In March 1975 Monash University Council established a Selection Committee to appoint the next Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. The Committee met a total of twelve times between May and December 1975. During this period they assessed and reviewed formal applications, made enquiries about additional candidates and held four interviews with potential appointees. An additional interview was also carried out by Vice-Chancellor Matheson while he was overseas.

At its final meeting in December 1975 the Selection Committee ‘resolved unanimously to recommend that Mr. Lance Endersbee, presently Group Engineer, Hydro-Electric Commission, Tasmania, be invited to accept appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering’. An official letter of offer was sent to Endersbee in January 1976. He accepted the offer and was due to arrive at Monash in early March 1976.

lance endersbee
Lance Endersbee

Lance Endersbee could not have been more different in background to his predecessor Ken Hunt. Educated at the University of Melbourne, where he graduated in 1949 with a B.C.E (Honours), Endersbee went on to have a long and distinguished industry career. He first joined the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric Authority as Field Engineer in 1950. He progressed through the ranks within the Authority, becoming Engineer and then Executive Engineer in the Dams and Tunnels Design Section. In 1958 he moved to the Hydro-Electric Commission in Tasmania where he was Project Design Engineer for the Great Lake Power Development. Endersbee remained in Tasmania fulfilling various roles for the Hydro-Electric Commission until he was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Monash University in 1976. When Endersbee joined Monash he brought 27 years of industry experience with him. 

Endersbee had also been involved in various engineering committees and regulatory bodies, and acted in several advisory roles – including serving as an Advisor to the United Nations on Dam Design and Hydro-Electric Power Development to the Thai Government in 1964. He had a particularly high profile in the Institution of Engineers, Australia (now Engineers Australia) – the professional body for engineers in Australia. At the time he came to Monash, Endersbee was Vice-President of the Institution of Engineers. Prior to his time at Monash Endersbee had served as Chairman of the Institution’s National Committee on Engineering Education (1973–75), and Chairman of the General College of Engineering in 1975. In 1979 he became senior Vice-President of the Institution of Engineers and then in 1980 he became President. He was also the recipient of several high-profile awards granted by the Institution and later became a Fellow.

Endersbee was a shrewd appointment – particularly in light of the path that the foundation professors had outlined for the Faculty at the end of Hunt’s deanship. With the change in leadership the Faculty was to focus on consolidation and strengthening its reputation. Who better to work towards this aim than a well-connected, well-respected and professionally active engineer with 27 years of industry experience? Endersbee’s experience in industry would also prepare him well for the critical task of securing resources for the Faculty, from the University and from industry, and distributing them appropriately among the five departments.

In 1976 Endersbee commenced his first five-year term as Dean. As hoped, he ably led the Faculty into a period of consolidation and profile-raising. When his first five-year term as Dean came to an end in 1981 he was swiftly reappointed for an additional five years. His term was extended for a further two years in March 1986. Endersbee led the Faculty for twelve years before being appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor (Special Projects) in 1988.

Endersbee clearly steered the Faculty in the strategic direction that had been outlined at the end of Hunt’s formative establishment years. At the end of Endersbee’s period of leadership the Faculty’s enrolments had expanded to 1500 students including 250 postgraduate students. The academic staff of the Faculty numbered 100, including nine professors, and there were also over 100 professional technical and administrative staff. During the twelve-year period the range of teaching activities had expanded, as had research and collaboration with industry. As a result the profile of Engineering at Monash throughout Australia had been raised significantly.

Endersbee was a strong leader with forthright ideas. Perhaps because of his own experience as a civil engineer with the Hydro-Electric Scheme, he had a keen interest in large-scale innovative projects. Also as a result of his industry experience he was highly knowledgeable and passionate about energy and water. He gave seminars, perhaps more progressively than was realised at the time, on the topic of renewable energy, energy futures, as well as water and water futures. 

Despite Endersbee’s strong leadership and industry connections, there was a degree of concern from within the Faculty about his leadership style and emphasis because of his lack of experience within academia. On a practical level, as some former staff recalled, there was sometimes a perception that Endersbee was not engaged in debates and discussions of an academic nature that would surface at Faculty Board meetings or in other forums.

Where Hunt’s emphasis during his deanship had been on building the Faculty by establishing quality research and teaching within a traditional academic framework, Endersbee’s focus turned to building links with industry, innovative research projects, and enticing additional students to the Faculty. While he was particularly skilled at building relationships, securing funding at the University level and attracting industry support, Endersbee was not necessarily as engaged as Hunt had been with issues of teaching quality and research performance.

The foundation professors had clearly identified that they wanted Hunt’s successor to raise the profile of the Faculty and build on its reputation. Endersbee, because of his industry experience and connections with the Institution of Engineers, was clearly well placed to meet these aims. Despite this, there was still a considerable amount of friction surrounding Endersbee’s appointment because he came from outside academia – it was a point of friction that surfaced at various points during Endersbee’s leadership.

(Updated Jun 8, 2011) Printed on: