Francis Sutherland Hambly, the doyen of university education in Australia, died in Canberra on 21 November 2018, aged 83. Frank served the universities as Director and Secretary of the Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee (AVCC) from 1966 to 1996; indeed he personified the AVCC.
Frank was a son of the Methodist Manse and remained a dutiful Christian throughout his life; he supported the union of the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches into the Uniting Church. He was educated at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide and the University of Adelaide.
After an early job in the Commonwealth Public Service, he joined the University of Adelaide in 1959 as an administrative assistant and served there until moving to the AVCC at the age of 31. In the thirty years that Frank held office in the AVCC, he saw the number of universities in Australia multiply five-fold and he must have seen several hundred Vice-Chancellors on and off the course. Frank was universally respected among the VCs and never a bad word was said about him.
Frank was an honest and cogent mentor to Vice-Chancellors who sought his advice but he was not one to impose it. He was very knowledgeable about every university and willing to assist their governing bodies to find candidates when a new VC was needed – he was often referred to as The Keeper of The Stud Book.
Frank was was available and affable to all and played no favourites. He had a good friendship with the late Michael Birt (UNSW) stemming from their common support for Richmond in the VFL/AFL. Frank himself was no mean footballer, his tall physique helped as a very successful ruckman for North Adelaide in the SAFL. Apart from football, Frank’s recreations included cricket, philately and listening to music.
Frank’s wisdom and advice were in great demand, as his contributions to very many governmental and other educational organizations attest. He was awarded honorary doctorates from LaTrobe and Southern Cross universities, he was an honorary Professor in the University of Canberra, an Adjunct Professor in the University of Queensland and a Fellow of The Australian College of Education.
In December 1963 Frank married Patricia Wyeth and they raised 2 sons and 2 daughters.
Frank Hambly was the epitome of grace and courtesy. He bore the immobility of his late years with dignity and good humour. As his lifelong friend John Menadue said at his funeral ” He was the nicest person I ever met. A life lived to the full… for others”. Vale Frank, we loved you and miss you but know that you have joined the communion of saints.
This obituary was published in The Australian on 11 December 2018. Peter Drake is a former Vice Chancellor of ACU