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Honorary degree citation - Mary Wright*

By: Nina Howe, June 1998

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Mary J. Wright, Professor Emerita of Psychology at the University of Western Ontario, a pioneer in the field of psychology, particularly early childhood education.

Dr. Wright has a long held vision of psychology as an important field of scientific study. Sa gestion à titre de chef de dèpartment de psychologie dans les annèes 60 a permis à l’instituition qu’elle reprèsente d’atteindre la réputation d’un des meilleurs dèpartements de psychologie en Amérique du Nord.

She was the first woman to hold a number of important and influential positions in Canada, not only as chair of a major psychology department, but as apresident of the Canadian Psychological Association. She served as Archivist of this Association, and was an editor of a book titled The History of Academic Psychology in Canada.

Dr. Wright has had a long-standing committment to the field of early childhood education. Her recognition of the importance of high-quality teacher training for early childhood educators was well before its time, and quite evident in her leadership when she served as Chair of the Certification Board of the Ontario Nursery School Association from 1964 to 1966.

Her committment to the field was fulfilled with the establishment of a research-based Laboratory Pre-School at the University of Western Ontario. There she conducted a major research project that demonstrated the benefits of high-quality education for children from families with both high and low incomes. Her book describing this work is titled Compensatory Education in the Preschool : A Canadian Approach.

Mr. Chancellor, throughout her life, Dr. Wright has been a strong advocate for the welfare of children; welfare that goes beyond defending their rights, but also providingchildren with the skills and motivation to realize their intellectual and social potential. She has taken particular interest in the well-being of children from disadvantaged circumstances and was a leader in obtaining financial support from Canadian agencies for the developmental psychological research and the scientific study of children and families.

Dr. Wright completed her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Western Ontario in 1939 and was awarded the gold medal for the highest academic standing in the honours program. She completed her Masters degree in 1940 and her PhD in 1949, both in psychology at the University of Toronto.

Her graduate studies were interrupted by the war. In 1942 to 1944, she was in Birmingham, England, training teachers to work in the war-time day nurseries. She began her career at the University of Western Ontario in 1946, was mae a full professor in 1962, and Professor Emerita in 1980, when she retired, officially, but not completely,

Elle tient toujours son bureau et continue d’ètre active au sein de sa profession et de la comminaité qu’elle dessert puisqu’elle publie encore des travaux dans des revues et livres spécialisés en psychologie.

She has received several awards, including the Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and has honorary degrees from Brock University, the University if Western Ontario and Carleton University.

Dr. Wright has been a model of instrumental competence and a powerful role model for several generations of men and women in the field of psychology and early childhood education.

Mr. Chancellor, it is my privilege and an honour to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and the Board of Governors, Mary Wright, so that you may confer upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.


* Deceased

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