Citations and Speeches

Citations

72nd Congregation (1969)

James Adam Louis MATHESON
M.B.E., M.Sc. Ph.D., M.C.E., M.I.C.E.

The Public Orator Professor Leonard Kenneth Young, B.A., D.PHIL., wrote and delivered the following citation:

In the halcyon days of the recent past, universities were believed to be calm oases of erudition where absent-minded dons could nurse their idiosyncrases oblivious of their scattered student charges. This mirage has been dispelled in our own day by the surging student numbers of the post-war bulge. With education a birthright that no-one would deny, the urgent need is for new and yet newer universities. But foundations are nothing without their visionaries and administrators, and these, as we are all aware, are in desperately short supply.

None have realized this more than the academics, and in the process of time some have voluntarily answered to the call, while others have been driven into service. If we have to select from amongst our number we could do no better than to surrender an engineer, whose characteristic activity is design and production.

Such a man is Louis Matheson, who was a student of the great A. H. Gibson, for so long the Professor of Engineering at Manchester University. After a period as a lecturer at Birmingham, he was appointed at the age of 34 to the Chair of Civil Engineering at Melbourne, and four years later, on Gibson's retirement in 1950, to the Beyer Chair of Engineering at his own University. A brilliant teacher and a gifted engineer, there he could have been expected to remain to enhance and to consolidate the eminent reputation of that place. But in his earlier days Louis Matheson had once managed to draw on his experiences with a Warrington ropemaker to publish a standard paper on the stresses in steel wire ropes, a display of ingenuity which indicated that he was destined to apply his talents in somewhat unusual fields. Thus, when the need arose, it was to be expected that he should be invited to accept the Vice-Chancellorship of the completely new University of Monash.

When he arrived at his new domain he found himself in possession of a wind-swept quagmire in which the architects occasionally had to wade hip-deep in mud. The wind has now been harnessed and is used to blow away outmoded ideas; while the site now boasts a fine array of buildings, which its Vice-Chancellor helped to plan. To build a University in the short space of ten years is sufficient achievement for a man, but Louis Matheson has applied himself to a task that is still greater. In a world of increasing political and racial separateness there is an urgent need to maintain and to open up the channels of communication in the undefined but indivisible society of learning in which we find our place. In this belief, over the past few years, he has served on the Ramsay Committee on Tertiary Education, the Executive Australian Council for Educational Research; and, amongst other similar bodies, the Interim Council of the University of Papua and New Guinea. He was Chairman of the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee in 1967-68 and as Chairman of the Association of Commonwealth Universities presided over the Association's recent Tenth Quinquennial Congress held in Australia. It was apparent at that illustrious meeting that Louis Matheson's stature assumed new dimensions at each stage of his career.

Mr. Chancellor, in recognition of his achievement I respectfully commend to you a master builder of new universities, who has briefly interrupted his labours to be with us today, to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.