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Kepert, John Leslie (Jack) (1903–1970)

by Peter Rushbrook and Andrew Spaull

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

John Leslie (Jack) Kepert (1903-1970), technical educationist, was born on 14 November 1903 at Bendigo, Victoria, fourth of six children of Australian-born parents Louis Kepert, a schoolteacher of Bohemian descent, and his wife Florence Agnes, née Coleman, a former schoolteacher. Jack attended his father's schools at East Shelbourne and Neerim South, and obtained a diploma of engineering (1924) from Footscray Technical School. He continued his studies at the University of Melbourne (BEE, 1928; BME, 1929; MME, 1936). In 1928-29 he was officer-in-charge of the development of the State Electricity Commission's Rubicon A hydroelectric power station; the project formed the subject of his master's thesis. At the Baptist Church, Footscray, on 24 May 1930 he married Ivy Rebecca Durber, a stenographer.

In 1929 Kepert had joined the Education Department of Victoria as a senior instructor at South Melbourne Technical School. He transferred to Footscray Technical School in 1937 and became vice-principal in 1944. Kepert was an energetic teacher whose rapport with staff, students and the business community was assisted by 'his ready smile, his relaxed manner, his sense of humour and his natural ability to be a man among all manner of men'. Behind his bonhomie lay 'a highly perceptive and very resourceful mind, a rapier wit and an obdurate adherence' to principles.

Because teaching was a reserved occupation, Kepert was refused entry into the Australian Imperial Force in World War II; in December 1941, however, he was commissioned in the Reserve of Officers as honorary captain, Ordnance Mechanical Engineers. After the war he was principal (1945-59) of Caulfield Technical College. In spite of administrative and lecturing demands, he served as president of the Institution of Automotive and Aeronautical Engineers, and sat on the council of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, the University of Melbourne's standing committee of convocation and Monash University's council.

In 1959 Kepert was appointed assistant chief inspector of technical schools. Four years later he was promoted to chief inspector. His informal contacts with engineers and industrialists at his 'other office', the Kelvin Club, ensured that the 'voice of industry' was heard in the reform of Victoria's technical education curriculum. In 1966 he led the Australian delegation to a conference at Huddersfield, England, on the education of technicians. As director of technical education in 1967-68, Kepert presided over a period of change which saw the removal of the colleges from Education Department control. He served on the council of the new Victorian Institute of Colleges and restructured vocational education within the department before he retired on 14 November 1968.

Always a keen sportsman, Kepert had been an outstanding young athlete and a regular entrant in the annual River Yarra swim. He died of coronary vascular disease on 9 September 1970 at Mont Albert and was cremated; his wife and four sons survived him. Footscray Technical College (Victoria University of Technology) named a scholarship and a building after him.

Select Bibliography

  • Education Department (Victoria), Vision and Realisation, vol 1, L. J. Blake ed (Melb, 1973)
  • Education Gazette and Teachers' Aid (Victoria), 14 July 1969, 27 Oct 1970
  • P. W. J. Rushbrook, Straws in the Wind: The Construction of Technical and Further Education in Victoria 1945-1985 (Ph.D. thesis, Monash University, 1995)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Rushbrook and Andrew Spaull, 'Kepert, John Leslie (Jack) (1903–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kepert-john-leslie-jack-10725/text19005, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 1 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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