A steady Vice-Chancellor
Richard Larkins joins Monash as its seventh Vice-Chancellor
Born into a family of doctors and lawyers in 1943, Richard Larkins had excelled at all levels of education. He was dux at Melbourne Grammar and top graduate in medicine at the University of Melbourne, where he won 13 of the 15 graduation prizes. Hard work and excellence in his research brought almost every accolade of the medical profession: Dean of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council and president of the College of Physicians.
Despite his successes, Larkins was modest about his accomplished career. His family life had taught him that success comes only from intelligence and hard work. His sense of conscience and altruism had driven much of his career and he was sometimes prepared to buck conventional expectations. In his mid-thirties, for instance, he alarmed colleagues by resigning a prestigious post at the Royal Melbourne Hospital to set up a new endocrinology unit at the Repatriation Hospital. But such decisions didn’t hamper Larkins’ success. In 1984 he was appointed the James Stewart Professor of Medicine at Royal Melbourne Hospital, a post he held until 1997, when he became Dean of Medicine at the University of Melbourne. By 2002, five years into his deanship, Larkins was considering his future. While he was proud of his Faculty, he was less happy about the direction of the university as a whole. When Monash began hunting for a new Vice-Chancellor, he threw his hat in the ring.
Larkins was committed to leading Monash, not just managing it. He made an effort to meet people and talk to staff around the university. His personal style of leadership – courteous, earnest but not without humour – made a great impression on Monash’s staff. While he embraced Monash’s recent international forays, he also halted further growth, focusing instead on developing a clear plan for the Victorian campuses. After experiencing the limited options for growth of the campus at Melbourne University, Larkins saw great potential in Monash’s multiple Victorian campuses. His leadership saw the University host the synchrotron and develop a multi-billion dollar Science and Technology Research and Innovation Precinct (STRIP).
Larkins retired in July 2009 after six years as vice-chancellor.