Monash memories


In the last edition of Monash Magazine, staff and students were asked to recall their favourite teaching moments as part of 50th year celebrations.
Here are just a few of those stories


Great expectations

Just why Pete, Kev and I hadn't bothered to prepare for the tute is hard to say. Perhaps it was because it was the start of second year; maybe it was because we were adult students in our late twenties and thought we were bomb-proof. Whatever the reason, it was soon apparent that we'd badly miscalculated.

Replying to the tutor, a young student confessed that he hadn't read the reference. When a second, similar admission was made the room temperature plummeted. At the third, barely audible excuse the air was frigid. Without raising his voice, the tutor asked, "Has anyone done the reading?"

The silence said it all.

Slowly, the tutor looked at each one of us. As a kid I'd heard the expression, "The hero's eyes flashed fire." Today I'm 70, but I'll still swear on a stack of Bibles that the pale blue eyes of Eli Daniel Potts actually blazed with fire. I felt I'd been zapped with an electric charge. What made it worse, was there was no overt anger or contempt, just overwhelming disappointment that all had let him and ourselves down so badly.

"It is pointless to continue," he said, walking towards the door. "Next week everyone will have completed the reading."

He was right about "next week" and about every other week of American History tutes that year.

Tim Hunter (BA 1968)

Special entry

My proud memories of Monash include firstly, applying for and being accepted into Monash under their Special Entry Scheme.

I began my undergraduate life at age 34, in 1984 with the Faculty of Arts. I was so very proud to have been accepted by Monash, but also terribly anxious, particularly at being able to write essays, as well as juggle university life, whilst being a Mother too.

I remember especially my growing love and attempt to understand many theories that surrounded the subjects that I studied within the Departments of History and Sociology.

I can never forget the kindness and support of lecturers and tutors. There was embedded in these fine people a great depth of knowledge which they were eager to share with me and others in order for our intellectual lives to grow.

Ms Anne Winter (BA 1992)

Whig fest

I did my BA as a part-time mature-age student between 1981 and 1986. John Morgan taught a medieval history course with tutorials beginning at 7 pm. They were nominally of two hours duration but always went to 10 pm and were great. One evening in the "tute" I mentioned points made by G.M. Trevelyan. John said that he was "the last of the Whig historians."

I knew what a Whig was, but this was something new. I questioned what he meant and he referred me to Herbert Butterfield's book The Whig Interpretation of History.

This was the beginning of a long interest in historiography and which influenced both my teaching of history (secondary) and as an author of two published histories, the first of which I dedicated to John. I think it true to say that John was an inspirational teacher, even though he would (and did) deny it.

Peter J Baddeley (BA 1986)

Tough lesson

Memorable and embarrassing was the experience of reading a comment by my French professor on a returned essay; "Your work flows like a 'lessive'."Not knowing this word, I eagerly looked it up in my French dictionary. Shock, horror- it means 'cesspool'! This one graphic word of criticism made this shy but eager student learn a hard lesson. Hopefully later essays flowed better!

Evelyne Perks (nee Felbel) (BA 1965, DipEd 1966, BEd 1979)

Inspiring times

After thirty years in tertiary education I have never encountered a teacher as brilliant and inspiring as Dr Zawar Hanfi. A uniquely gifted classical scholar and linguist, he guided students into the intellectual worlds of Plato, Aristotle and other philosophical giants with a flame that shone a penetrating light on the modern world. But as well as opening up fundamental questions about politics and society it was incredible to feel these great texts become part of us.

Born in India, forced by civil war to flee to Pakistan, Hanfi found his way to Germany where Arnold Bergstraesser and Eugen Fink witnessed his amazing capacity to absorb European languages and culture. From the Descartes seminar he took with Heidegger, he learned that reading a text meant listening carefully and intently to the message it carries for us. Hanfi passed this gift on to many students until his sudden death in 1989.

Chris Coney (BA (Hons) 1984, LLB (Hons) 1984)

Teaching hat trick

Around 1970 Professor John Crossley, an inspirational member of the Logic staff in Pure Mathematics was lecturing on Model Theory. Mathematics lectures usually consisted of a step-by-step explanation of a proof. Many mathematics lecturers performed from memory, like a musician in a recital.

Near the end something wasn't right. Professor Crossley knew this, but couldn't see what was wrong. He backtracked and checked things. Again he was stymied. He tried again, and unfortunately couldn't fix the slip in memory or logic.

Rising to the occasion he pointed out that THREE TIMES he had stated the final conclusion of the theorem, although he had been unable to complete the proof: "What I tell you three times is true", thus quoting the Bellman from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. We knew Carroll, and the Snark, and accepted this as a highly fitting conclusion: Carroll was also a great mathematician!

John Gough (BSc (Hons) 1972, DipEd 1973, MSc 1976, MEdSt 1981)

Test of time

I am in my 39th year at Clayton campus and now manage the electrical services in Facilities and Services, but in the early days (around the late 60s I think) when I was employed as a maintenance electrician I wired the Louis Matheson Pipe Organ which is located on the stage of the Robert Blackwood Concert Hall.

The motor is stored in a cupboard over the steps which lead to the basement of the Robert Blackwood Concert Hall and rather a difficult area to access. When I asked Jurgan Ahrend (the German builder of the organ) how we were expected to service/maintain the motor in such a location, he replied "Why do you need to service the motor? It is a German motor!" The same motor is still running and running well.

Trevor Wilson, Manager, Electrical Services

Living in the 70s

As an EcoPol student in the 70s only a few things still stick out in my mind -- the rest must be ingrained. Hobbes, Locke and Russo -- the names rather than the theories. An aversion to Financial Accounting and sitting in the aisles of a packed lecture theatre in the Rotunda to endure it.

Being impressed that I knew the difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics. John Maynard Keynes. Demand creates supply. Monetary policy. Actually enjoying International Economics. Big caff and small caff. Having a bank book. Playing bridge and feeling superior, even when I was a dummy. Drinking in the beer garden at the Nott with the free range chickens. Microfiche. Photocopying for 2c. My burnt orange 1973 Corolla and the free parking it enjoyed. Balls (did we dance?) at St Kilda Town Hall. Skyhooks on rotation at a party in someone's parent's house in Mt Waverley.

Peter Brown (BEc 1978)

The blurb was right

In 1978 new students in the Economics and Politics Faculty received a booklet containing blurbs on each department. The one on economic history banged on vaguely about imparting "deeper understandings" and "certain valuable skills".

My initial game plan was to aim for honours in politics but still emerge with what was nominally an economics degree, a canny strategy, I thought, for balancing interest and employability. But the first-year politics units I chose were desperately dull. So I leapt aboard the best lifeboat available -- economic history. I gladly ended up with what was effectively an arts degree so convincingly disguised as an economics qualification it landed me a half decent job in the Canberra bureaucracy.

My twenty-six year sojourn in various Australian government agencies here and in overseas embassies has just ended. For the first several of those years, the ability to write clearly was the most prized skill in government employment.

It has also helped me moonlight as a reviewer in local newspapers. Economic istory taught me far more about this and much else than "straight" economics did, and was a lot more fun, to boot. The blurb was right!

Stephen Wilks (BEc (Hons) 1981)

For other 50th memories, go to the 50 years at Monash website.