<< back to Monash Engineering


The Faculty grows

The Faculty easily transitioned to having a dedicated Dean whose role was exclusively to lead. The building and growth that characterised the Faculty’s earliest days continued. Student numbers rose consistently as the decade progressed. When Monash first opened its doors in 1961 there were just 22 students enrolled in Engineering. By 1964 this number had swelled to 194, and by 1967 it had more than doubled to 490 – 77 of whom were from overseas. In 1970 a count of all postgraduate students, including PhD and Masters candidates, totalled 102 across all five departments, including six in the new Department of Materials Engineering.

While Applied Mechanics had ceased to exist as a separate department, under Hunt’s Deanship the Faculty adapted to accommodate the changing trends in engineering research and teaching by establishing the Department of Materials Engineering. Professor Ian Polmear – originally employed as a second Chair in the Department of Civil Engineering – became the head of this new department, which immediately set about building an outstanding reputation for industry-focused research.

Research and research related facilities were growing exponentially in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Specific areas of expertise had emerged within the Faculty and within each department. A strong floor laboratory, anechoic chamber, and an electron microscope facility were just a few examples of the research specific facilities that the Faculty had developed. The Faculty was going from strength to strength. Hunt’s leadership had, without doubt, been instrumental in helping achieve, and even exceed, the expectations that were placed on the Faculty of Engineering at Monash.

By the time Hunt had flagged his intention to retire as Dean he had a well established reputation as a scholar, teacher and Dean. Staff who worked in the Faculty during Hunt’s leadership recall elements of his leadership style, personality and dedication as well as the culture he helped to build in Engineering. Brian Cherry commented that by the time he arrived at Monash in the 1970s ‘Ken Hunt was a very respected Dean [and] one of the more powerful figures in the university’. David Boger agreed and observed that not only was he a great Dean, but Hunt was a great scholar, for whom he had a great deal of respect.

Ian Polmear, who joined the Faculty in the late 1960s before becoming Head of the Department of Materials Engineering, commented on Hunt’s leadership style. He noted:

I think we had very good leadership from Ken Hunt - he was Dean for 15 years - in that he was himself an outstanding academic. He valued research … he kept things going in his own area, but he really let the Departments get on with it, he didn't interfere at all. You might say that he ought to be in the Departments telling them what to do, but he thought, you're the specialist, I'm here to help you. Interfaculty things get debated at Faculty Board Executive, but in the Departments - unless something was going wrong, or someone had complained to him or something - he would keep out of the Departments. And I think that was healthy, particularly at our building stage, when we're creating.

Despite his original vision of an open Faculty without departments, in the end, Hunt ended up presiding over what Peter Darvall observed to be ‘a very traditional structure with all-powerful Heads of Departments. The Faculty Board Executive Committee was the Dean plus the Heads of the Departments, and what they said went. That existed right up to the end of his deanship, 1976.’ Even though his leadership style was traditional and at times autocratic, Hunt was an exceptionally well liked and highly regarded Dean on a professional and personal level. Current Deputy Dean John Sheridan speaks glowingly of Hunt and recalls that one of his fondest memories of Hunt was talking casually with him about Hunt’s latest research in lightweight robotics and his diverse personal interests.

While the Faculty of Engineering and Ken Hunt were both without doubt ready for change, Hunt had been an outstanding Foundation Dean whose legacy would continue to influence the Faculty well into the future.

audio file  The Baron - poem written and narrated by Peter Darvall (audio)