Tribute to international pioneer in education

23 April 2013
Marie Clay Literacy Trust members Barbara Watson and Graham McEwan with Professor Stuart McNaughton, Faculty of Education.

Around 120 people attended a tribute to Professor Emerita Dame Marie Clay at the Faculty of Education last week, the first woman to be appointed a professor at The University of Auckland and the first woman to head an academic department here.

A portrait was unveiled at the tribute, which has gone on permanent display in the faculty’s main foyer.

Dean of Education, Associate Professor Graeme Aitken described Dame Marie as a “trailblazer” in many ways, who among other things, “demonstrated that research could make a difference to young people, their lives and their wellbeing”.

An internationally renowned developmental psychologist and pioneer of educational literacy, Dame Marie’s publication record included 32 books and 75 papers. However, she is best known for her development of “Reading Recovery”, a highly effective early literacy intervention widely implemented in schools throughout the world.

Dr Christine Boocock, of the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy and director of National Reading Recovery said at the event that Dame Marie was a person of compassion and humanity, whose research has enriched the lives of children throughout the world. “In New Zealand alone, in the 30 years since the programme was implemented, more than 250,000 children have gone through Reading Recovery.”

Dame Marie graduated from The University of Auckland with a Masters degree with honours in 1948, completed a PhD in Education in 1966 and was appointed Professor of Education in 1975, the same year she became head of the department.

Dame Marie’s contribution to literacy education has been recognised both here and internationally. She was inducted into the US Reading Hall of Fame in 1980, received the Mackie Medal in Education in 1993, made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1987 and was awarded five honorary degrees by universities around the world. She was also named New Zealander of the Year in 1994.

The event was attended by people involved in Reading Recovery throughout New Zealand, faculty staff and family of Dame Marie.

Professor Emerita Dame Marie Clay died in 2007.