The name game
Sir John Monash
The new university narrowly escapes being called the Victorian University of Technology: CSIRO chemist John Swan - later a Monash professor and deputy vice chancellor - calls it “ugly” and “cumbersome” and suggests Monash, after the World War One military leader, engineer and administrator.
Sir John Monash
Sir John Monash was born in West Melbourne on 27 June 1865 to German-Jewish parents. He excelled in all his academic pursuits, whether in the sciences or the humanities. He was awarded Dux in both mathematics and modern languages (and equal Dux of the school) at Scotch College, before enrolling in arts and engineering at the University of Melbourne. Despite struggling financially, he had obtained a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science (Civil Engineering) by the age of 30. His love of learning saw him to go on to become a Doctor of Laws (Melb.), Doctor of Engineering (Melb.), Doctor of Civil Law (Oxford), and Doctor of Laws (Cambridge).
In 1884, Monash joined the newly formed University Company of the military at the age of 19, and rose quickly through the ranks. He was among the first Australians under fire on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1914. By 1918 he was in charge of the entire Australian Corps. Other military leaders, and his own men, quickly saw Sir John as a keen military strategist. Following his successes as a commander in the Battle of Hamel, Sir John was knighted on the battlefield by King George V. His concern for his men continued back home, where he became a spokesman for returned soldiers and began leading the annual Anzac Day march in 1925.
After the First World War, Sir John returned to his engineering career. He had worked as a civil engineer in Melbourne in the 1890s and was one of Australia’s foremost experts in the use of reinforced concrete for bridges, railways and other large construction projects. Following his war service, he became chairman of Victoria’s new State Electricity Commission and later oversaw the construction of Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance. Sir John also continued to be involved in university life. He lectured and examined at the University of Melbourne, and was appointed its Vice-Chancellor in 1923.
Sir John’s achievements in engineering have won him many accolades, such as the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal, the highest honour of the Institute of Engineers, Australia. In 1931, he was awarded the University of Melbourne Kernot Memorial Medal.
He died of heart disease in Melbourne on 8 October 1931, aged 66. More than 250,000 mourners attended his state funeral. Sir John is remembered as a man of action who put his education and talent to public benefit.
Sir John Monash statue
A three-metre bronze sculpture of Sir John Monash by renowned Australian sculptor Peter Corlett OAM was unveiled at Monash University’s Clayton campus in 2015. The statue depicts Sir John’s traits as a thinker, leader and visionary.