The conditions of appointment for the Foundation Chair of Engineering at Monash University, advertised in early 1959, clearly outlined the duties of the Faculty’s first professor. There were three major areas of responsibility: one of them was research. Once appointed it would be the Foundation Chair’s specific duty to ‘carry out research and to organise research work amongst the staff and post graduate students’.
In 1960 Ken Hunt was appointed to the Chair of Engineering. Soon after, he was made Dean of the Faculty of Engineering – a position he retained until 1975. Educated in the United Kingdom at the Charterhouse School and then Balliol College, Oxford, Hunt was well versed in the quintessentially academic traditions of research and scholarship. But, importantly, Hunt also had considerable practical experience as an engineer outside of academia. By the time he took up an academic post at the University of Melbourne in 1949, Hunt had worked as an experimental engineer and a process design engineer, and had spent time as an engineer in the research department of the Gas Light and Coke Company in London. In Hunt, the Faculty of Engineering had a Foundation Chair who was perfectly placed to ‘carry out and organize research work’. Not only was he well schooled in the principles and framework of academic research, but he also had first hand industry experience. It is precisely this combination of an academic approach to research coupled with practical industry experience, connections and awareness, that has characterised and shaped engineering research at Monash.