How Dellys Kelly fought for our USQ

THE generations who have passed through the University of Southern Queensland owe that to a young mother's indefatigable spirit and an early model FJ Holden.

At 26 and a young mother of two boys, Dellys Kelly bought a map from a Warwick newsagency, packed her early model car and headed south to Canberra to ignite the fight for a new university.

It was her vision for Toowoomba to get a higher education institution and, on arriving in Canberra in 1958, walked into parliament house reception and asked to see then Prime Minister Robert Menzies.

Meeting with Menzies and then Treasurer Harold Holt, Mrs Kelly was told if she raised $30,000 they would chat again about her university vision.

Fellowship of the University recipient Dellys Kelly at USQ Graduation Day, September 5, 2009.
Fellowship of the University recipient Dellys Kelly at USQ Graduation Day, September 5, 2009. Nev Madsen

The money was raised in 11 weeks with strong community support and by December 1960, the Darling Downs University Establishment Association was formed and later, in 1967, USQ's antecedent the Queensland Institute of Technology (Darling Downs).

In 1971 it became the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education then USQ in 1992.

She was recognised as a USQ Fellow in 2009 for her work in bringing about the modern, world-class university.

In conferring Mrs Kelly for the honorary title of Fellow of the university, Vice-Chancellor and USQ president Professor Bill Lovegrove at the time said her contribution "cannot be understated".

"Her leadership in raising funds for the Colleges Art Union, Japanese Garden, 4DDB FM radio station and Mt Kent Observatory continued for many years and her efforts have benefited students both nationally and internationally," he said.

EARLIER: The education visionary who paved the way for the establishment of the University of Southern Queensland has died, aged 86.

Dellys Kelly has been described as a "giant among giants" with her sheer tenacity and willpower in bringing about change in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs a lasting legacy.

Groom MP Ian Macfarlane's campaign manager Dellys Kelly after the LNP meeting of Groom electorate members to decide if the Groom MP can switch to the National Party, Saturday, December 12, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle
Groom MP Ian Macfarlane's campaign manager Dellys Kelly after the LNP meeting of Groom electorate members to decide if the Groom MP can switch to the National Party, Saturday, December 12, 2015. Photo Kevin Farmer / The Chronicle Kevin Farmer

Mrs Kelly died at the Toowoomba Hospice on Wednesday, and leaves behind two sons Michael and Greg.

A life member of the now Liberal National Party in Queensland, Mrs Kelly is being remembered as a "strong advocate of education", and her work securing funding to established the modern-day USQ is among her greatest achievements.

It was Mrs Kelly who, in 1958, met with Prime Minister Robert Menzies in Canberra about setting up a higher education institution in Toowoomba.

Menzies agreed on the condition she raise $30,000.

Eleven weeks later the funds were raised. Two years later, in 1960, the Darling Downs University Establishment Association was officially formed.

By 1992, and after various names and changes, USQ was formed.

When she was named a university fellow, Mrs Kelly said she was most proud her children and grandchildren were able to study in Toowoomba.

 

Dellys Kelly off to a royal wedding party in Brisbane . Photo Nev Madsen / The Chronicle
Dellys Kelly off to a royal wedding party in Brisbane . Photo Nev Madsen / The Chronicle Nev Madsen

"For me it is very humbling, but I am extremely proud that the achievements of the staff of the university have lived up to my dream," Mrs Kelly said in 2009.

Mrs Kelly was a political powerhouse, working in former Groom MP Ian Macfarlane's campaign office during his campaigns in 1998 and 2013 as part of her long commitment to liberal politics.

A funeral is planned for Friday, March 9.



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