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Sir Joseph Robert Archibald (Archie) Glenn (1911–2012)

by Greta Harrison

Archibald Glenn, n.d.

Archibald Glenn, n.d.

One of The Melbourne School of Engineering’s oldest alumni, a long-time friend to the School and leading Australian industrialist, Sir Joseph Robert Archibald Glenn passed away in January, aged 100.

Sir Archibald, or Archie, as he was known, was born on the 24th of May 1911 in Sale, Gippsland. He grew up on a dairy farm and studied at Scotch College, where he excelled at mathematics.

At the end of 1929 he was awarded a senior scholarship and a mathematics prize. At the time, another very famous University of Melbourne engineering alumnus, Sir John Monash, asked him what career he had decided on. Archie replied that he didn’t know, to which Sir John said, “Well, what are you waiting for? Mathematics is the language of an engineer.”

Sir Archie was sold on the idea. He promptly began studying engineering at The University of Melbourne in 1930.

A resident of Ormond College, Sir Archie lived with Weary Dunlop and author and film producer Graham McInnes.

He was Captain of The Melbourne University Boat Club from 1932-3, rowed in two winning Ormond College crews and in four MUBC intervarsity crews between 1930 and 1933.

After finishing his degree in 1933, Sir Archie embarked on an illustrious career as one of Australian engineering’s leading figures.

He rose from a humble job in the drawing office of Imperial Chemical Industries Australia (now Orica), to Maintenance Engineer, Chief Engineer and Technical Director to eventually become ICI’s Managing Director.

He went on to study at Harvard, furthering his managerial skills.

In 1965 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and in 1966 he was made a Knight of the Realm.

Sir Archie then became a director of Westpac Bank, a position he held for 17 years.

Throughout his career, Sir Archie played an important role in engineering education, as a donor to the Melbourne School of Engineering, and co-founder of the Melbourne School of Engineering Foundation.

He was also involved in the establishment of Monash University, as a member of the Interim Council. He was the first Chancellor of Latrobe University and played an instrumental role in that University’s establishment.

Former Dean of the Melbourne School of Engineering (1979 – 1988) Emeritus Professor Len Stevens said that Sir Archie would be dearly missed among the School’s community.

He said Sir Archie was a joy to work with and his counsel was always wise and helpful, showing a deep insight into the motivations of potential supporters of the School.

“His contribution as a friend of the School and co-founder and board member of the Melbourne University Engineering Foundation has ensured that many students who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to pursue engineering careers were able to do so.”

“He was a most valuable board member and used his quiet charm to persuade many influential people from the financial, as well as from the technical fields, to contribute substantial sums. His presence on the board was a powerful influence in giving credibility to the objectives of the appeal for funds.”

“The Melbourne School of Engineering is grateful for the valuable input that Sir Archie has made to the life of the School, and we pass on our sincere condolences to his family.”

Professor Stevens said he recently asked Sir Archie about the personal attributes that future engineering students would need to have.

“I think they have to have a feeling for humanity,” Sir Archie said.

“I think whatever you do, unless you’ve got that, your life’s not going to be pleasant for you… I suppose I had a feeling for mankind.”

Sir Archibald Glenn is survived by his wife Sue, his son Gordon, and daughters Elizabeth and Fleur.

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Citation details

Greta Harrison, 'Glenn, Sir Joseph Robert Archibald (Archie) (1911–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

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