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The Faculty takes shape

The establishment phase

Hunt immediately began written communication with his group of four newly appointed senior lecturers. The purpose of Hunt’s letters was twofold. First, it was to create a picture for them of exactly what was involved in building a university from scratch, so that when they arrived at Monash, they were informed and well prepared. For example, in 1960 Hunt wrote to Noel Murray, who was scheduled to arrive from England in March 1961:

It occurs to me that you may not have a very clear idea about what we are doing here. We are at present involved largely with the Architects and also with the acquisition of equipment and gradually we are thinking in terms of curricula although this does not worry us so much since the first year of the engineering courses will be run in conjunction with the Faculty of Science and include only mathematics, physics and chemistry.

Hunt continued on to describe the building plans for the campus and the way in which departments and faculties would share facilities, moving around progressively until the multi-staged building of the campus was complete. Clearly, Hunt was preparing Murray and the other three foundation appointments for what to expect once they arrived – a university in a state of construction and, potentially, disorder. He concluded his letter to Murray by saying:

You can see from this that we shall be playing the game of general post for quite a while and all I hope is that the staff will be prepared to accept this in a good-humoured and enthusiastic fashion, realising that we should in the end have something which is really good.

The second purpose of Hunt’s letters was to start to build a sense of collegiality and involve his new staff in the planning of the Faculty. Via letters Hunt told each senior lecturer about the others and their background. He sought their feedback on course structure, research facilities and approaches to courses and teaching. In a letter to John Crisp in October 1960, Hunt told him about the other three colleagues and their areas of expertise. He then continued a discussion with Crisp in which they were clearly exploring the role that computers would play in the Faculty. Hunt wrote:

I agree entirely with you about computers and with the need to orientate courses in mathematics towards the use of computer techniques in design and research. It is clear that this is changing the use of engineering and we cannot afford to ignore it … What we shall do in engineering in the way of analogue computers will be up to us and I should welcome any ideas you might have about the places they should [be used] in the school as research and teaching tools.

As well as building a rapport with these early staff and seeking their input on the fundamentals of the Faculty, Hunt was working tirelessly to build the profile of Engineering at Monash and to recruit additional academic staff. In February 1961, a month before Monash was due to officially open, the Interim Council was informed that Hunt had been invited to give a series of lectures at Yale University. While he was overseas he would also visit England for the express purpose of staff recruitment. So important was this overseas venture that his trip was approved and funded, despite the fact that it meant he would be absent from the University’s official opening ceremony.

Hunt’s first trip overseas on university business was clearly successful. In early April he cabled the Monash University Registrar:

Over fifty people enquiring about engineering positions some obviously good stop please send twenty more sets general information stop since enormous job sorting out would appreciate postponing arrival Melbourne possibly until tenth May. 

The following day the Registrar sent a return cable. Additional documents had been sent and Hunt’s trip had been extended. Interest in Engineering at Monash was high and was continuing to grow.