Tag Archives: 1960

Kristina Vingis

I was one of the original 511.

A unique privilege to be among the first intake of students, to start with a blank page, with the freedom to do things and establish things for the first time.

The editorial page of the first edition of ‘Rabelais’ published on July 24 1967

Like starting a student newspaper – roll the presses! First published on the 24th July 1967, I can’t remember who came up with the name ‘Rabelais’ – perhaps it was the founding Editor Michel Lawrence, or Dick Wright, or perhaps it was the paper’s roving photographer, Alan Street. Nonetheless, it was going to be ‘The Mouse that Roared!’ with a cover price of 5 cents, although I can’t remember anyone who actually paid for it, either! I was a member of the editorial staff/production staff/reviewer for the first issues.

My battered and yellowing early copies are on their last legs – if they have all been digitized, I look forward to reading them again online.

Mahmood Khwaja

I joined La Trobe in December 1968, and was the first Asian to get his Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1973. During my Ph.D. years, what I liked, and was most convenient, was access to laboratory facilities to work late hours and even over the weekend (provided the University guard on duty was informed about working late/over weekend).

At La Trobe, I also had the opportunities to do volunteer work, both for the University, university groups, as well as outside. My first experience of volunteer work with the University fellow students, at a home for children with intellectual disabilities. That spirit continued after my Ph.D., in West Africa, also in underdeveloped and very poor areas of Pakistan and now, more so, at regional and global levels, as President of the International Society of Doctors for Environment (ISDE), with a focus on children, environment, health (CEH) and hazardous chemicals/waste.

Mahmood with the La Trobe cricket team

Our research at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on mercury issues earned an “Excellence in Research” award in 2014. It was pleasure to be in Australia, where people, though reserved (and at time cautious) in the beginning, were sincere and friendly, with some of whom even now after all these years, I am in touch with.

Watching and playing sports was great fun in Melbourne and being a member of one of La Trobe’s cricket teams’, I learnt the fierce but friendly competitiveness in sports. “Just focus on your own performance, never ever give up and a match is not over until the last ball is bowled,” would continue in my life’s ongoing inning, inshallah.

I cherish and most fondly remember my Eid celebrations with invited Australian friends and research colleagues, bush walking (about 10-12 days) in Lake Saint Clair and Cradle Mountain Park, Tasmania. There were so many enjoyable beach sides, short pleasure visits, events, evening with families at my friends’ homes and two friendly cricket matches of our Chemistry Department team (research students and staff), with the sister department team of Monash University and with the team of Welfare Association.

Mahmood can be contacted by email if you are a past classmate who wants to get in touch.

Amber Griffiths-Marsh

I attended La Trobe from 1969 to 1973, doing a Bachelor of Arts, and a Diploma of Education.

In my last year I lived in Menzies College. One night I went for a quiet walk around the campus, and heard someone in Glenn College playing on a piano, in the quiet of a silent night, some beautiful music. I was overwhelmed. I asked around and discovered what the music was, and so it was that I bought my first LP. The music – ‘The Sounds of Silence’.

Paul Begley

In 1968 or ’69, I was assigned for third or fourth year English tutorials to a visiting professor, Ernst De Chickera. From memory, I think Ernst was Sri Lankan, had come from the University of Singapore, and was likely an associate of DJ Enright.

At one tutorial, by way of indirect reprimand after looking at our modest efforts at writing about and discussing Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, Ernst advised us that we were not doing the right thing by ourselves by being dutiful. “As a university student”, he said, “your primary obligation is to be irresponsible. You have the rest of your lives to be responsible if you choose to be so, but this is the time for irresponsibility. Use that time well.”

Just prior to hearing the professor’s words of wisdom, as they were, I recall participating as a non-speaker at one of the anti-imperialist lunch meetings on the lawns of Glenn College. Our self-appointed leaders spoke through megaphones, and I seem to recall they spoke from the Glenn balcony over the other side of the moat. One radical proposition they advanced caused some murmuring among us thronging masses, so they called for a division on the lawns in place of the usual show of hands. A good deal of shuffling ensued after which the nays could be seen to be in a considerable majority of roughly 3 to 1. Undeterred, our masters with the megaphones declared that ‘yays’ had won the vote and moved to the next matter. Our only protest at the flagrant calling of the numbers was expressed in open laughter and shaking of amused heads.

I wondered later in hindsight whether our leaders had been given advice by Ernst De Chickera, but decided they didn’t need it. They had learnt that lesson well before I did. When I heard the media spokesman of the new president of the United States calling the numbers at the Donald Trump inauguration of 20 January 2017 as the largest ever to witness an inauguration, I straight away remembered that day at La Trobe, and also wondered what advice Trump might ever have been given as a young man that would lead him to embark upon such an effortlessly falsifiable degree of self-delusion.

George Borzymowski

Since I enrolled at La Trobe after Orientation Week was complete, I must have been number 552. Coming from a working class migrant family and being schooled in an inclusive environment where corporal punishment was the norm, I thought La Trobe was heaven on earth.

At La Trobe, I learned that dogma is not truth, that all knowledge is built on previous ideas and that nothing, even Science, is absolute. The mandatory humanities subject showed me science cannot be exclusive of morality and human condition.

My teachers, who came from all parts of the world, showed me that taking a chance and fully experiencing life there, is an education in itself. They gave me the courage to live in a world without self imposed physical borders.

My fellow students, all explorers willing to take a chance on a new education concept and surrounds reminded me of my immigrant parents. Their willingness to “give it a go” are part of the Australian spirit and culture.

I am immensely proud that my granddaughter decided to study at La Trobe. I know that she is in good hands!

Sara Bowman

La Trobe University gave me lifelong friendships, blue sky thinking, freedom, a passion for knowledge, the confidence to pursue my dreams, and an abiding interest in people’s stories. After leaving La Trobe, I undertook postgraduate studies at the Courtauld Institute, London and trained as a tapestry weaver, teaching and exhibiting my textile art internationally. My book and BBC documentary film celebrated the lives and work of the craft of couture. My visual arts training was enhanced by daily exposure to the outstanding Australian painting and print collection at La Trobe.

I chose to come to La Trobe because it was new and provided a unique opportunity to contribute to the foundation of the dynamic international university that La Trobe is today. La Trobe’s motto ‘Qui Cherche Trouve’ encompassed this huge vision – it invited us to become pioneers.

Art history or the visual arts were not part of the academic curriculum, however the first intake came with experience of film, theatre, and music which they developed at La Trobe in new students’ societies and with the support of academics and support staff. La Trobe became an informal hub for film. The Film Society set up by Philippe Mora, Pete Bilbey, Rod Bishop, and others introduced us to French New Wave. The Hungarian cook was always in attendance in his chef’s whites. Cinematheque discotheques were held in Glenn College, where we danced on the tables. Cinema Papers the important International Film Newspaper was launched at La Trobe in 1967 and I was involved in some film making too, with Philippe Mora.

A cleaning cupboard in Glenn College became a darkroom for Allan Street who unofficially photographically documented the early years of La Trobe transforming a cleaning storage cupboard in Glenn College into his darkroom.

As a student from a traditional girls’ school in Melbourne and home in the eastern suburbs, La Trobe gave me a freedom and the opportunity to connect myself and the land. The campus was near bush with its huge skyscapes, native gums, wattle, wild grasses, birdsong, flocks of parquets and ibises, to explore.

We had great opportunities to respond to the built environment. The moat became an annual tradition with rafts and wooden structures in racing in the moat. Rosemary Edwards and I also set up the Swings and Slides club, with SRC backing to promote play with new play equipment for staff and students’ families.

Simon Boeyen

The 50th anniversary of when the University formally commenced (on March 8 1967) was recently celebrated. And what a great occasion it was in 1967 when we (the then staff) were chuffed to secure the attendance at the service of many dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, the Victorian Premier, the Victorian Governor, the Minister for Education, as well as the Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of the Univeristy of Melbourne and Monash University.

Fortunately, the weather on that day was very pleasant, although a little windy. There was a ‘Plan B’ in case of inclement weather, but it would have been very difficult to accommodate the large number of invited guests in to the Glenn College dining hall. (Only two buildings existed at that time, most of Glenn College and the first stage of the Library.) In the week prior to the opening, all the mature elm trees you see now in that area were planted, they were about 3m tall and created an ‘instant’ forest!

A list of the staff members who worked at 474 St Kilda Rd in 1965 as featured in 25 Years On at La Trobe University

Having been heavily involved in the planning and organising of the ceremony, (in which I played a minor role), I felt a little nostalgic when recently I stood on the spot where the stage had been, those many years ago. Although the opening of the University will now be regarded as the starting date of the University (lectures actually commenced on 13 March ‘67), to have reached this point was the result of a great deal of hard work by a large group of dedicated people, particularly the members of the ‘Third University Committee’ (T.U.C.) which held its first meeting on  June 2 1964. (Some people would regard that date as when the University came into being, although the La Trobe University Act was not passed until December 9 1964.)  Early in the T.U.C.’s deliberations, some reservations were expressed whether the March 8 1967 date could be met. However, when it was noted that Monash University had worked with the same time frame (June ‘58 to March ’61), the T.U.C. forged ahead, as it had a similar time frame.

Simon, La Trobe’s Head Gardner, and Simon’s daughter planting a tree during the early days at La Trobe University

Of course, accommodation for staff was an urgent early requirement and it was fortuitous that the offices of the Australian Universities Commission became available in May 1964. It was interesting to note however that;
 “The floor coverings in several rooms at the University offices at 474 St Kilda Road were the property of the Commonwealth Government and were removed when the Australian Universities Commission (A.U.C.) vacated the premises. A good second-hand carpet and underfelt has been purchased and laid in six rooms at a cost of 248.10.0 (Pounds and shillings)!” It seems that the Commonwealth Government was also short of funds in those days! Although the T.U.C. had been unable to secure the A.U.C. carpets, it did secure the services of a senior staff member of the A.U.C., and appointed Mr Frank Barnes as the Executive Assistant to the Vice-Chancellor.

Mr Barnes offered me a job as his assistant in July 1965, and I and another administrator resigned from the University of Melbourne and I commenced my long employment with La Trobe. By the end of 1965, 31 people had been appointed (mainly Library staff) and by the end of 1966 the total staff appointments (general, academic, and Library) was about 135.

Simon’s daughter by the tree on her graduation day in 1984

There was a good cooperative working atmosphere at the St Kilda Rd offices, and many staff were keenly aware of being involved in the unique experience of helping to establish a new university. A staff BBQ/tree planting day held on November 20 ‘65 on site was attended by almost all staff and their families, including the Vice-Chancellor.

In the note that I circulated to staff, it was mentioned that ‘After planting the trees, people can pass the time of the day as they desire but are asked to vacate the site by 4.30 p.m. as the main gate has to be locked!’ (Milking cows were still on the site!)

Shortly before this event, members of the Interim Council had also been on the site to plant trees in the same area between the cemetery and the Main Oval. Nearly all trees from that time have survived and are now healthy 52-year-old gum trees. With the planned sports grounds redevelopment they may not survive, which would be a pity because of the history.

Simon’s daughter on her graduation day

It is probably not appropriate in this short note to detail the massive amount of work required to get to the point of enrolling the first   cohort of students, although it is worth mentioning that P.A. Management Consultants appointed in April 1965 helped a lot with their detailed critical path schedule on the design and implementation of administrative procedures, i.e. to make sure everyone knew what had to be done in sufficient time to ensure we were in fact able to enrol students in 1967.

Although work pressures were considerable, there were some light moments from time to time. Shortly before Christmas in ‘65 I had purchased a tricycle for my daughter and stored it in my office. Frank Barnes saw it and commenced riding it up and down the very wide passage in the flat, much to the hilarity of staff. (Frank was about 6’ 8”and heavily built!)Frank Barnes was an amazing person and some years later become the first CEO of the Sydney Opera house.

Simon by the tree in recent times

On April 1 1966, the new Registrar commenced and I transferred from business administration to academic administration. The staff transfer from St Kilda Rd to Bundoora took place on February 17 1965 and, from this date those, of us in administration commenced the real admin work i.e. providing support for academic staff to do their job, i.e. teaching and research.

In the 29 years at La Trobe I held a number of different positions and elected to take early retirement in 1994. It has been a great experience!

BJ Mithen

In 1967, getting to the Bundoora campus was for me a different adventure each day, sometimes requiring a walk from the then Tyler Street tram terminus while dodging magpies in spring, or trying to arrive dry through the rain. They were great days, as the University found its feet and we students did too.

As a part-timer, it was hard to find time to socialise much, but Glenn College was often a welcome refuge. The Library was another retreat, with Mr Borchardt often seen surveying his domain.The Agora was a far cry from its current splendour, but, above all, the sense of a learning community with a fresh vision of what a university could offer was very encouraging.

Happy birthday, La Trobe!

Dr Elizabeth Essex-Cohen

In 1967, Elizabeth Essex became the fourth woman to gain a PhD in Physics in Australia. And of those four – she was the only one to be both a lifelong researcher and lead a full life as wife and mother.

In her PhD research, carried out at the University of New England, at Armidale NSW, she made a study of ionospheric irregularities, by bouncing of radio waves of different frequencies off the underside of the ionosphere. After her PhD, Elizabeth spent two years teaching at the University of the West Indies, and then was appointed as a lecturer in Space Physics in at La Trobe in 1968.

Her four children were born 1975-1983; long before maternity leave existed. La Trobe from its earliest days had a child care centre where her young children were looked after while Elizabeth lectured. She stayed at La Trobe as a Senior Lecturer until her untimely death in 2004.

Elizabeth with a full size model of the FedSat scientific satellite launched in 2002

The advent of the Space Age offered new opportunities to explore the earth’s outer atmosphere layers. ATS-1 – the second ever geostationary satellite – was launched into a fixed location (vertically) above Hawaii in 1966. Shortly after her arrival at La Trobe, Elizabeth set out to capitalise on new opportunities for ionospheric research by monitoring radio beam from ATS-1 using an antenna pointed at the satellite but steadily rotating. By that means the plane of polarization of the received signal could be determined – which gives a direct measure of the Total Electron Content (TEC) along the path. The fact that La Trobe Physics at that time had a fully equipped workshop was vital to her project.

Elizabeth in 1975 using crossed Yagi antenna to monitor the ionosphere

As early as 1971, Elizabeth collaborated with a world-wide group of ionospheric physicists in order to give a whole earth description of a huge ionospheric storm of that year. This collaboration, and participation with other space scientists, lead her to spend 8 months of 1974 at the US Air Force Geophysical Research Laboratory (AFGRL), just outside Boston. At the AFGRL, she made a study of the bending of radio waves from orbiting satellites, essential knowledge to check out the possibility of Satellite Navigation, then called SatNav – but later on called GPS. Her AFGRL supervisor, Jack Klobuchar went on to develop a model (the Klobuchar Model) – still in use – that is used to make corrections to GPS due to ionospheric effects – and without which GPS accuracy would be limited to tens of meters.

1974 was the ‘Year that Made Me’ for Elizabeth. Not only did she contribute as the only Australian Ionospheric Scientist to guide GPS design –and was the only woman to do so –but her relationship with a researcher at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory – this writer – deepened and she returned to La Trobe as Elizabeth Essex-Cohen.

Elizabeth Essex-Cohen continued as Lecturer/Senior Lecturer at La Trobe, teaching undergraduates and research students, continuing to explore new ways of observing the ionosphere using the tools of the space age.

GPS satellite orbits ionosphere and plasmasphere in paper by Elizabeth in 2002 at Wireless Applications of Radio a Conference of which she was the Chairperson

She attended- with her husband- a meeting with the government – leading to Commonwealth Funding (amounting to 26 million dollars) to the FedSat Scientific Research satellite. For FedSat, she was in charge of GPS related research. When FedSat was launched, on Saturday December 14, she was able to respond to phone calls from the press but could not take part in TV interviews: she suddenly became ill – and was in hospital by Christmas. She was ultimately diagnosed with mesothelioma – but had a brief remission period and with her husband attended an international conference on Wireless Science in January 2004, but her condition suddenly deteriorated and she died in March 2004.

Elizabeth’s husband, Dr Harvey Cohen, with the rotating antenna

She received many professional tributes, including a Special Session of the (International) Beacon Satellite Group – but touching is this tribute from Heather McCreadie, who gained a PhD at La Trobe: “Elizabeth was a role model for me. She was quiet and gentle, yet very determined. She helped me to become strong and stick by decisions. She showed me that being a scientist didn’t mean I had to stop being a woman. Her example and leadership helped to forge my career. It is from her that I got my strength to continue to follow the path of science in the face of much adversity.”

This was written on behalf the late Dr Elizabeth Essex-Cohen by her husband, Dr Harvey Cohen



Dennis Trewhella

Dimly, I recall:

My first experience of La Trobe was as a student from RMIT at the 1966 August Meeting of the National Association of Australian University Students. David Myers (La Trobe’s first Vice-Chancellor) gave a remarkably warm and inspiring description of his brand new addition to the Melbourne scene. So I submitted an application and attended an interview: only to be told I was ‘way below our cut-off line’.

Undaunted, I took part in possibly the first student activity relating to La Trobe (February 1967): a bed-push* that started at Heidelberg Hospital and ended at Glenn College. Other ‘intervarsity’ activities apparently involved flour and/or plaster-of-paris.

The cut-off line drifted down, and I became one of the first student cohort. Immediately, I found myself embroiled in a plethora of gatherings, meetings, committees, and general student activity that led to a series of student run organisations (and a fine gavel** presented to LTU’s First SRC by RMIT SRC).

Meanwhile the unique academic organism that is La Trobe today began evolving.

In due course, I graduated BEc. It has been useful on my CV – not least when, in 1986, twenty years after hearing David Myers expound his vision for La Trobe, I entered an older university (overseas) possessed of a more durable college system. And graduated MSc in fuzzy logic.

As much as fruits of academic work, the value of La Trobe for me came from friendships made and many retained; and from exchanging views with people such as Richard McGarvie, David Myers, Ben Meredith – to name but a few.

*A competitive bed-push requires a number of 1960s hospital beds each fitted with bicycle wheels, steering and braking systems, and a driver’s seat. Also necessary are teams including drivers, pushers to get them up hills, collectors to garner donations for charities; and amused approval (or at least no objection) from the Police, VicRoads, Local Councils and the like.
** Where is it now?