Thelma Sara McConnel BEM



Mr Chancellor, 

Occasionally The University of Queensland has an opportunity to honour someone whose contribution to the University and to the community is so diverse, so exceptional and so impossible to categorise that it must acknowledge simply a truly outstanding individual whose services have always extended way beyond the reasonable expectations of anyone. Such a person is Thelma McConnel. Born in Austria, she was trained in abnormal psychology, nursing, and early education in America during the 1930s and became an expert in the assessment, care and education of intellectually disabled children. She came to Queensland in 1940 and directed the Montessori School in. Toowoomba, also serving as President of the Queensland Child Care Centres. She later worked as research assistant to Fred and Eleanor Schonell at the University, completing a BA degree in 1954, before her appointment as Principal of the Bowen House Centre for Subnormal Children in Queensland where she worked for twelve years. As long ago as 1969 The University of Queensland recognised her outstanding service to remedial education for disabled children and to the University by awarding her the honorary degree of Master of Arts. During the quarter of a century that has elapsed since that recognition, our debts to her have continued to mount. Apart from a ten year period working with disabled children in India on a voluntary basis, from 1972 she has worked as an honorary member of the Department of Child Health, teaching undergraduates, advising postgraduates, assisting colleagues in medical and allied professions, looking after children, in fact helping anyone wherever and whenever her help has been sought. Two reservations have been expressed about her. She appears to have no understanding of the principle that normally governs professional relationships, that fees are required for services performed; nor does .she appear to understand the concept of retirement. The Queensland Subnormal Children's Association acknowledged her massive contribution in the naming of the Thelma McConnel Home in Aspley, and in 1988 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to disabled children. Once more The University of Queensland seeks to acknowledge its debt to her.

Mr Chancellor, in recognition of her distinguished contributions to medical education and The University of Queensland, I present to you Thelma Sara McConnel, British Empire Medal, Bachelor of Arts, Diploma in Educational Psychology and Honorary Master of Arts of this university, Member of the Australian College of Education for the conferral of the award of Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa, to which she has been admitted by the Senate of the University.