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Heritage Guide to The Geelong College






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FARGHER, Kenneth Herbert Francis

FARGHER, Dr Kenneth Herbert Francis


‘Ken’ Fargher is among the pioneers of formal business administration training in Australia.

Kenneth Herbert Francis Fargher first attended the Tooronga Rd and then Lloyd St Central Schools, Malvern before his enrolment at Geelong College on 12 February, 1943 where he was educated until December 1947. At College he played in the 1st Football XVIII of 1947 and was a Cadet Corps lieutenant.

After leaving College ‘Ken’ completed a Bachelor of Science and a Diploma of Education before teaching at Melbourne High School. He then joined the academic staff of the Royal Australian Naval College. While at the Naval College he completed a Bachelor of Education and conducted expeditionary and small arms training as well as teaching science.

At University in 1948, he had joined the Melbourne University Regiment as a temporary corporal moving through the ranks to eventually become a major in the mid-1950s. Later, he became a company commander in the 34th Battalion at Wollongong and subsequently Commanding Officer of the University of NSW Regiment and an Assistant Adjutant General. In recognition of his service he was awarded an Efficiency Decoration and the Reserve Forces Decoration.

In 1953, ‘Ken’ married Dorothy nee Spencer and together they raised four children – all sons.

In the 1960s he left the Naval College to join the then Colonial Sugar Refining Co (CSR) at head office, Sydney where, after several years, he became a senior manager. He continued studying at the University of New South Wales earning his Master of Business Administration and becoming dux in that course. He subsequently became a lecturer in the Graduate Business Studies Program at the University of New South Wales.

Ken completed a PhD at the University of Sydney. While he was there he undertook consultancies and established courses for the Australian Institute of Marketing of which he became a Fellow. He also co-authored a text on International Marketing published in the UK by Edward Arnold and authored two other slim volumes published by UNSW Press in 1972.

He moved to Melbourne to become foundation departmental head at RMIT. In his first two years he introduced bachelor degree courses in public administration, local government administration and property valuation. In 1975, he became the foundation head of the Graduate School of Management and introduced a second MBA degree course to Victoria, a course that was later recognised by the Commonwealth Government as one of three MBA courses to be permitted in Victoria. During this period ‘Ken’ served on numerous interstate educational committees concerned mainly with post-graduate courses and research and spent periods overseas as a Visiting Professor.

In about 1990, aged 60, Ken ‘retired’ but shortly after was appointed Australian director of a joint Chinese/Australian government senior management centre at the Wuhan Science and Technology University becoming the second foreign Honorary Professor of the University and given the title ‘Outstanding Foreign Educational Expert’ by the province of Hubei in 1991.

Ken Fargher recalled his days at Geelong College during World War II and wrote the following account in 2014.


'Ken' Fargher (Football, 1947).

'Ken' Fargher (Football, 1947).

‘I was a day boy – we ‘greasies’ were very much in a minority. During the four years of war that I was at the College we experienced different conditions from the boarders. Some boarders, even a majority, never saw, even one parent, for months, and for a few, their father, for years! For instance, the father of two brothers at the College was a prisoner of war of the Japanese. And that was about all they knew of him for several years. No mail, no news, but occasional stories of Japanese atrocities. Another was sent to the school by his parents because they remained in Asia only to be taken prisoners. He suffered in significant measure because his parents had given power of attorney to a rather strict master. As I was later to learn, it was only the kind-hearted acts of ‘Rats’ Lamble, that got him through, but his future life could be described as high achieving but turbulent.

The father of two other brothers was a motorbike despatch rider throughout the war. Quite a dangerous job because the enemy tried to capture riders for the messages they carried, or else to shoot them to disrupt the flow of signals too important to trust to wireless. When the boys' father returned, he was not the same man that they had known.

I could go on with more examples. While the war appeared on the surface not to disrupt or vary daily routines, some boys experienced major stresses, producing major changes to their lives. For several this extended into the immediate post war years. What was evident was the ‘stiff upper lip’ and the steadiness of exhibited behaviour. I believe this pervaded the school of those years more than any sporting hierarchy. It was strengthened by a common expectation to try one's best. You expected that from the sportingly gifted but sometimes it came from sheer determination. George Ewan was a gifted high jumper, and he was successful even when some boys ribbed him by yelling out that he might jump higher if he took off his wrist watch! On the other hand, Andrew Hope's mile and George Tippet's membership of the rowing crew are two examples of quiet and unanticipated determination. And the latter applied in other endeavours too such as the expedition achievements of students such as Fred Elliot. Indeed it was a quiet and hardly noticed student, not expected to even participate in sport, who began rising towards world class performance while at school. Russell Mockridge went on to the world stage in bike riding, his career cut short by a fateful road accident.

As Frank Roland said of the times, he never feared that Geelong Collegians would lose in poor grace. It was inevitable because of our relative numbers that we would lose more often than we won, but what counted was that we had tried dam hard. And when we won, the occasions were indeed pleasant and enjoyable but in perspective that full endeavour rather than the outcome was the reward.

In retrospect I believe these more general values, albeit harder to define, outweighed the influence of a narrower ‘hero worship’ of some senior sporting achievers. Geoff Neilson mentions the influence of George Logie-Smith on the School. I would indeed agree with him. He was an outstanding man. Later, he greatly influenced my sons at Scotch College, Melbourne.

If I did have a tendency at school towards hero worship it was of four masters, Rolland, Henderson, Lamble, and Tait. All would be called ‘war heroes’ in to-day's terms. Each won a military cross for outstanding bravery and leadership during World War 1. They were similar in their behaviour, respectful and civil towards all, young or old, gifted or slow, master or student. To me they were inspiring. 'Tammy' Henderson, for instance, produced a long line of outstanding achievers in science and medicine. Frank Rolland certainly influenced some of the best students of my time to enter the clergy, but his main contribution was the setting and leading of behavioural standards across the school.

Shortly after World War Two, I was a member of the colour party to lay up the colours of the 2/14 batallion. Sir Frank Rolland presided over the service from a rather high pulpit. During a hymn he took the opportunity to smile faintly towards me and clearly wink! That he could acknowledge a very minor player amongst a congregation of important people typified the values he handed on to his Geelong College students. I remember that these men never talked of war during those war years. Looking back it seemed as if they deliberately insulated us from the possibilities we might have to face.

I joined the College in the third secondary year after moving from Melbourne. It certainly was like moving to ‘sleepy hollow’ and particularly in respect of the impact of war on daily lives. Firstly, many of my father's Melbourne friends were ‘returned soldiers’ from WW1; several had missing limbs. Secondly, in Melbourne there were men in uniform wherever you turned including many American servicemen (unlike Geelong which seemed, and was in those days, miles away from Melbourne!). Thirdly, at the central school I attended there were about six students in my year who had fled from war zones. They were different in dress and accent. A few were lucky to have escaped at all. Then, the central school was commandeered for the Americans. At notice of a few days we had all to find alternative secondary schools. In my case this meant walking about one mile and then catching a bus for about 40 minutes each day to and from school. At that school we were expected to spend time weaving camouflage nets (after an explanation of what these were and their use in war). Fourthly, I well remember two young air force officers from neighbouring families who were home a few days and then gone forever. Finally, the local shopping centre had subtle but noticeable changes. The Italian fruit shops suddenly displayed Greek flags, for instance! And a family named, Barr, who spoke poor English set up a toy-shop, and came to live next door to us (The son studied hard and was later to become General Manager of Heinz in Australia.). Living in Melbourne certainly did bring home somewhat the realities of war.

I joined the Geelong College cadets in 1943. Given the earlier experiences and still then a possibility of having to go to war, this fitted the family tradition. Now while the weekly parades of the cadets and the annual cadet camps introduced one to fairly basic concepts such as sleeping roughly, marching together up hill and down dale, firing light rifles and so on, the courses conducted for achieving rank and specialisation were much more rigorous, being conducted at army training camps, by army NCO's and Officers. The highest level course, for promotion to Cadet Lieutenant, was for three weeks, arduous and reasonably competitive. The instructors were mainly soldiers with war experience, setting high standards. Having later served with many war-experienced soldiers I came to appreciate the benefits of those courses from a military point of view. These courses drew school students from across Victoria. They widened one's view of the world and provided a whole range of friends from other than your own school, many of whom became leaders in their fields across Australia.

Finally, there were sometimes family or personal matters which impinged on some students more than others. All had to accommodate to rationing of clothes, foods and the like. All had to make do to an extent that to-day's student would find most annoying. My school cap, now in the archives, was the one and only cap I had at the College. The badge was not embroidered but stamped or printed on to the material. Tennis shoes were re-soled and re-soled, and sometimes even had an internal insole of thin metal to last a little longer. Shoes generally were repaired and handed on. I remember with gratitude that Geoff Nielson handed on to me a pair of football boots and a first eighteen jumper. Spikes for athletics I salvaged from the pound (cast offs or unclaimed articles). And I was far from alone in doing such things. Academic prizes, formerly leather bound books, were replaced with certificates acknowledging academic achievement and stating that the prize money had been donated to the war effort. Looking around to-day I cannot but reflect that a little of that austerity might be appropriate for present day staff and students in private schools. But please not the cold showers in the day boys' pavilion.

The personal and family degree of austerity varied greatly but was nevertheless very real for many at the College. My maiden aunt contracted terminal stomach cancer midway during the war. For the last months of her life she was nursed in our home at Geelong by my mother because beds were unavailable or very scarce in hospitals for such patients. Later my family shared our home with another for several weeks, that family having been compulsorily moved by their employer, had literally nowhere to bed down in Geelong.

The above has been written to testify to the sort of conditions experienced during those war years. Day boys probably had a less stressful time than some of the borders. I would hope that anyone trying to envisage the College in those years would solicit a variety of experiences before reaching a picture of the reality of the home front in war, even be that reality comparatively mild. The four brothers of my wife each saw front line service of two to four years. She and her parents lived ever in fear of the knock on the door and the telegram simply saying your son has been killed in action. Remember too that the servicemen were true volunteers to serve for as long as it took, to win or be defeated. There was practically none of the type of professional volunteerism of to-day's fixed tours of duty. There was never a skerrick of the national fervour which accompanies the funeral of a present soldier, with the attendance of prime ministers and generals. Despite that period of total commitment to war, I believe that my generation and that which fought the war never envisaged Australia almost continuously engaged in war albeit minor. The increasing lack of enthusiasm for compulsory cadet membership after the end of World War II bears witness to that outlook.

Despite all of the above most of the time the body corporate of the College was a happy and contented group. I am sure most would say, on balance, they were happy and pleasant years. Nevertheless we were probably exposed to the possible hardship and austerities of life at an unexpectedly early age. There was a general lack of pettiness and a gradual development of the important issues of life. The comparatively small size of the School and a magnificent set of teaching staff greatly facilitated such developments. We were truly fortunate. Rather than succumb to the difficulties we were better off from handling them. It is no excuse for engaging in war but I believe most of my generation were improved by living through those troubling times.’


Sources: Ken Fargher. OGC 1942.
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