The second Chancellor
Following the resignation of Chancellor Sir Robert Blackwood, Monash turned to council member and High Court judge Sir Douglas Ian Menzies. He was the ideal chancellor. He had been involved in academia, and Monash, for many years, and was interested in the long-term development of the university. He offered guidance but did not interfere, leaving the day-to-day running to Vice-Chancellor Sir Louis Matheson.
Sir Douglas was born in 1907 in Ballarat. He was the son of a congressional minister, and the cousin of Frank and (Sir) Robert Menzies. After graduating from the University of Melbourne with several prestigious scholarships and prizes, he was admitted to the bar in 1932. He read taxation and company law in his early career, and soon developed a reputation as a talented legal mind. His legal practice grew after World War II, and Menzies began appearing in the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council, London. In 1958 he was appointed by the Federal Government to the High Court. Later that year he was knighted for his services to the law.
As a high court judge, Menzies’ judicial opinions were often conservative, but he was known for his ‘unique perspective on things’. Sir Douglas was something of an entertainer. He was known for his humour and wit, which he sometimes deployed in court. He often lightened the sometimes solemn mood of the court with his great knowledge of English literature and poetry. His good humour, and steady, dignified intelligence, served him well in his post at Monash.
Sir Douglas continued to serve as a Justice of the High Court after being appointed Monash Chancellor, until his death in 1974. At the annual dinner of the New South Wales Bar Association in November 1974, he collapsed and died later that night. He was survived by his son and three daughters.