Tribute to foundation Chancellor

Posted on January 10, 2012


Sir Archibald during a recent visit to the University

La Trobe University’s first Chancellor  Sir Archibald Glenn OBE, a key founding figure of the University, died on 4 January at the age of 100.

One of Australia’s leading industrialists he was chief advisor to the State Government during the 1960s on all matters relating to the establishment of Victoria’s third University, later to become La Trobe University.

La Trobe University’s Chancellor, Adrienne E Clarke AC, said that Sir Archibald set the foundations for La Trobe to become one of Australia’s best internationally ranked universities.

‘He had the vision of establishing an outstanding and enduring institution dedicated to education and research. Importantly, from his experience in industry, he had the practical skills to make it happen. 

‘He chaired the key committees during the planning and establishment phases of the University and then steered it through the challenging times of its first five years in his role as foundation Chancellor,’ she said.

‘Sir Archibald’s skills, judgement and commitment were defining for the establishment and success of La Trobe University which today has more than 30,000 students on five campuses and an international reputation for the high quality of its teaching and research.’

Sir Archibald Glenn, left, with the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies.

Passion for education

An engineer and Managing Director of what was then ICI (now Orica) with a passionate interest in education, Sir Archibald was invited in 1964 by the then Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, to Chair Victoria’s 13-member Third Universities Committee.

His task included selecting the University’s site at Bundoora, preparing a detailed development program, planning and calling tenders for buildings, and formulating an administrative structure.

Sir Archibald also oversaw the appointment of the Academic Planning Board and the recruitment of key staff, including the foundation Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Myers, in preparation for enrolling the first cohort of students in 1967.

First meeting of the University Council, chaired by Sir Archibald, at Glenn College

College carries his name

At La Trobe University’s formal dedication ceremony on 8 March that year Sir Archibald was installed as the University’s foundation Chancellor. The ceremony was presided over by the Governor of Victoria, Sir Rohan Delacombe, and also attended by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies

And the Council’s first meetings were held in Glenn College, which had by then already been named in his honour.

La Trobe’s construction and growth overseen by Sir Archibald was phenomenal. By 1972 when he retired as Chancellor, La Trobe already had a student population of more than 4,000.

In 1981 LaTrobe University further honoured Sir Archibald, by recognising his contributions with the prestigious award of Doctor of the University, honoris causa .

The Library and Thomas Cherry Building, left, take shape in 1967.

Imaginative vision

The citation for the award noted that ‘those of us who saw those undulating paddocks before the bulldozers got to work (on the original Melbourne campus at Bundoora) will realise the imaginative vision needed to foresee their development’ to the splendid university it eventually became.

Sir Archibald’s contributions to, and interest in, the University continued well after his retirement. In 1976 he gave ‘generously of his time’ to chair the appeal to mark the retirement of foundation Vice-Chancellor Myers.

This appeal provided a legacy which resulted in the construction of the University’s iconic outdoor Moat Theatre near the Union Hall, the Leonard French glass panels in the Undercroft area of the David Myers Building and a range of other significant acquisitions for the University’s Art Collection.

As recently as two years ago Sir Archibald visited the Melbourne campus where he met the then Vice-Chancellor, Paul Johnson and former Chancellor Mrs Sylvia Walton. And he was planning another visit in this, his centenary year before he succumbed to a brief illness.

Sir Archibald is survived by his second wife Sue, his son Gordon Glenn, and two daughters Elizabeth Howcroft and Fleur Glenn. He was predeceased by his daughter, the well known publisher and editor Di Gribble.

See also: Building La Trobe University – Reflections on the first 25 years 1964 – 1989 (WJ Breen ed)  ‘The Planning Phase’ by JR Archibald Glenn.