Life Sentences - Three Gentlemen

Life Sentences - Three Gentlemen
Hugh Ennor, 1968, [detail], National Archives of Australia, A1200, L71702

Pam Crichton discusses three men in the Australian Dictionary of Biography who endeavoured to 'put in' more than they 'took out', from ANU Reporter, Spring 2009, p 8

George Bernard Shaw suggested that a gentleman is someone who endeavours to put in more than he takes out. By that criteria three individuals who have contributed to the public service and then ANU – or vice versa – would likely have gained Shaw’s approval.

Fin Crisp was the first professor of political science at Canberra University College, which later became part of ANU. He arrived in 1950, having had the experience of working in and then leading the Department of Post-War Reconstruction in the 1940s. Maintaining town-and-gown links, he was chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation from 1975 until his death in 1984. Although he opposed what he called the ‘shotgun wedding’ of the College and the research-only ANU in 1960, he worked hard for the reshaped university. Disillusioned by the student unrest in the 1970s, in the John Curtin lecture in 1974 he portrayed the ‘disaffected darlings’ as the ‘the gravediggers of academic freedom’. He retired in 1977.

Like Crisp, John Crawford’s time at ANU coincided with an increase in student disquiet. Crawford had a major career in the Commonwealth Public Service (including a stint in the Department of Post-War Reconstruction at the same time as Crisp) before moving to ANU. Founding director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics from 1945 to 1950, he was subsequently secretary of the departments of Commerce and Agriculture from 1950 and then Trade from 1956, where he supervised the negotiation of trade agreements with Britain and Japan. In 1960 he joined ANU as professor of economics and director of the Research School of Pacific Studies. He served as Vice-Chancellor from 1968 to 1973 and then Chancellor from 1976 to 1984. ANU historians Stephen Foster and Margaret Varghese write that instead of being phased by the years of student unrest that marked his stint as Vice-Chancellor, Crawford ‘exuded reason and understanding’. 

Some people moved from ANU to a substantial role in government – a transition that could cause friction with their former academic colleagues. Hugh Ennor came to ANU as a foundation professor of biochemistry. Dean of the John Curtin School of Medical Research from 1953 to 1967, then Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1964 to 1967, he was a member of the government-appointed Martin committee on the future of tertiary education in Australia. From 1967 he was secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science, and later the Department of Science. In 1975 Ennor’s department was blamed for the government’s decision to reduce the funds of the Australian Research Grants Committee.

To honour their contribution on campus and in the capital, buildings at ANU are named to commemorate these three gentlemen.

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