The first dean of the Faculty of Economics and Politics, economist Donald Cochrane, was a forceful and strong leader who saw Monash as a chance to build a new faculty and go in new directions. Cochrane had grown up during the Great Depression and graduated from the University of Melbourne on the eve of the Second World War. After serving in the Royal Australian Air Force during the war, he completed a PhD at Cambridge and co-authored an article which became a seminal text in modern econometrics. He spent a decade at Melbourne University until 1960, but was frustrated by the lack of innovation there. Monash presented an opportunity to start anew.
As dean, Cochrane was both intimidating and innovative. Running the Faculty as his own show, he hired Australia’s best minds in economics, but also insisted that politics be taught in the Faculty to broaden its perspective. He bought his department one of the university’s first computers. He wanted his brightest students to master ‘the mysteries of computers and programming’.
An innovative and ambitious dean, Cochrane hired a strong group of economists, including the university’s first female professor, Maureen Blunt. He appointed political conservative Rufis Davis as Foundation Professor of Politics, and then filled his staffroom with young radicals. The Faculty grew quickly. By 1968 the numbers had risen to 1400, making it the largest economics faculty in Australia.