Dellys Kelly, Toowoomba education pioneer, has passed away.
Dellys Kelly, Toowoomba education pioneer, has passed away. Kevin Farmer

Tributes flow for Toowoomba education giant Dellys Kelly

DELLYS Kelly's passion for higher education stayed with her to the end.

The woman, who as a young mother back in 1958 took it upon herself to get Toowoomba a university, was a "giant among giants" who didn't let a little challenge like fundraising get in her way.

Generations of University of Southern Queensland graduates owe that opportunity to the "absolute dynamo" and her desire for her two sons, Greg and Michael, to study at home.

But it was her indefatigable spirit that shone in her work in the Toowoomba community that earned her the respect of her peers, and her town.

Challenged by Prime Minister Robert Menzies to raise 30,000 pounds when she drove to Parliament House and demanded they meet, the East Greenmount Hotel manager, affectionately known as 'The Little Lady', rallied Toowoomba.

Eleven weeks later the foundations of USQ were laid.

Mrs Kelly died at the Toowoomba Hospice on March 1.

"Dellys Kelly's legacy as an early founder of the university, friend and colleague will be fondly remembered by USQ," USQ Chancellor John Dornbusch said.

"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."

She was made a University Fellow in September 2009 for her long and distinguished association.

Tim Nicholls fundraiser breakfast. Tim Nicholls with Dellys Kelly.  Photo: Stuart Cumming/ The Chronicle
Tim Nicholls fundraiser breakfast. Tim Nicholls with Dellys Kelly. Photo: Stuart Cumming/ The Chronicle Stuart Cumming

Mrs Kelly touched many lives and in her later years would often speak to high school students about the value of higher education.

She would give her card to those shy about higher studies, invite them to her home to talk and arrange introductions with USQ staff.

A life member of the Liberal Party, she ran former Groom MP Ian Macfarlane's campaign office and coordinated fundraising efforts.

Groom Liberal Party AGM 2003 (from left) Dellys Kelly, Ian Macfarlane and Phillip Blaine, August 31, 2003.
Groom Liberal Party AGM 2003 (from left) Dellys Kelly, Ian Macfarlane and Phillip Blaine, August 31, 2003. Nev Madsen

"Dellys made an enormous contribution to any organisation or group she was involved with," Mr Macfarlane said.

"She was an absolute powerhouse; a proper dynamo.

"Her lasting contribution to the region will be USQ and the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education.

"She was a great source of common sense, and is going to be greatly missed. She was like gold dust to me."

Toowoomba South MP David Janetzki said Mrs Kelly was "always ready with advice - from complex policy to the frames of my glasses".

In a member bulletin, the LNP mourned the loss of a "giant among giants".


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