The changing of the guard

Hunt first advised Vice-Chancellor Matheson that he would be stepping down as Dean in early 1973 – three whole years before his resignation would take place. Hunt was realistic. He was well aware that this change would take a considerable amount of time to implement. In his handwritten memo to Matheson Hunt explained:

hunt resignation memo
Hunt flagged his intention to resign from the Deanship in a handwritten memo to the Vice-Chancellor.

It occurs to me that a change in engineering deanship should be accompanied by some quite careful and extended thought about the administration and organization of the faculty … there will be a bit of budgeting necessary, and very likely, quite a long selection process. Therefore, it does not seem too stupid to me if one starts thinking two to three years ahead of the possible switch-over date. 

Hunt was right to allow several years for a succession plan to be enacted. By late 1974 a successor was yet to be found. Perhaps fearing that by default, his resignation would not come about, Hunt wrote to the University Registrar to reiterate that he had no intention of remaining Dean after December 1975. He wrote:

I cannot help pointing out that my earliest approach to the Vice-Chancellor on this matter was a note sent early in 1973, anticipating then that something of the order of three years’ ‘notice’ might not be excessive, bearing in mind the sequence that would have to be followed!

There were several reasons why finding a replacement for Hunt was proving so difficult. Firstly, due to its youth, Monash University did not necessarily have established procedures as to how to deal with the specifics of Hunt’s resignation. While Hunt was resigning as Dean, he had no intention of leaving Monash and it was clear that his professorial status simply had to remain. But where in the Faculty would he go? Hunt’s transition from Dean to Faculty academic staff member required careful planning.

Hunt’s impending resignation sparked talk among the Engineering Professors about the role of Dean and the strategic direction of the Faculty – they met on several occasions specifically to discuss the Deanship. It was noted at one of these early meetings that the Faculty of Science was engaged in similar discussions due to the impending resignation of its Foundation Dean, Kevin Westfold. In his case, a new Chair, unattached to any administrative or leadership duties was created specifically for him. Westfold became the Professor of Astronomy.

The group of Engineering Professors agreed with this approach. Hunt had made an outstanding contribution to the Faculty – one that should be acknowledged with the establishment of a new Chair, free of the duties associated with heading a department. However, they also agreed that this was specific to Hunt’s situation. They carefully noted that Deans in the future should not automatically expect to be fitted into a department as an additional (or as it was called, supernumerary) professor should their tenure not be renewed. Rather, this would only occur in ‘certain cases’.

In September 1974 Noel Murray, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering, submitted a document to Vice-Chancellor Matheson. The document was the end result of the professors’ deliberations about the role and functions of the Dean and the strategic direction of the Faculty. In it were their recommendations regarding supernumerary professors – which clearly related to Hunt.

Over the next year the role of Deans across the University was discussed, as were the recommendations made by the Engineering Professors. When plans were finally made for Hunt’s successor, Matheson was clearly in agreement with the recommendations regarding Hunt’s role and status after he stepped down from the post of Dean. In November 1975 Matheson recommended to Monash University Council that:

Professor Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, has tenure as a professor in his subject upon relinquishing his deanship. Since Professor Hunt’s main interest is in the branch of study known as ‘mechanism’, I propose to recommend to Council that Professor Hunt should take up a new chair in Mechanism in the Department of Mechanical Engineering upon completion of his term as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the end of 1975.

All agreed that this was a fitting way to acknowledge Hunt’s contribution to the Faculty and ensure that his transition from Dean to academic staff member was as seamless as possible.

(Updated Jun 8, 2011) Printed on: