New elementary school named for Western pioneer

By Jason Winders
June 05, 2013

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Currently under construction, a new elementary school in Strathroy will be named the Mary Wright Public School, in recognition of the internationally respected child psychologist’s lifelong work for the benefit and education of children. The Thames Valley District School Board announced the honour last week.

The new school — first proposed in 2011 — will educate more than 500 JK-Grade 8 students from Colborne Street Public School. The school is scheduled to be completed by Christmas 2013 and opened to students in January 2013.


The two-story facility will have 17 classrooms, four JK/SK classrooms, a general arts room, gymnasium, activity room, stage, library resource centre, development centre, learning support room and administrative areas. The building will be energy-efficient and the grounds will offer both asphalt and grass playing surfaces.

Wright (BA'39, LLD'82) was born in Strathroy in 1915. During the Second World War, she spent three years in bomb-ravaged Birmingham, England, training women in the psychological care of young children. After the war, she completed doctoral degree at the University of Toronto before returning to Western where she taught, researched and administered from 1946-80.

In 1960, she was appointed Chair of the Department of Psychology, the first woman to chair a major academic department at Western, and the first woman to chair a major psychology department in Canada. Wright also served as the first woman President of the Canadian Psychology Association, and founded Western’s innovative laboratory preschool that now bears her name – the Mary J.Wright University Lab School – in honour of her work and a $500,000 donation she made to Campaign Western in 2001. The Mary J. Wright Psychology Centre at Huron University College also pays tribute to her contributions to the field.

In addition to her work as a child psychologist, Wright has been an avid student of the history of psychology, writing and co-editing with C. Roger Myers, the seminal work History of Academic Psychology in Canada. In recognition of her impact on this field as well, the history and philosophy of psychology section of CPA established a student award in her honour.

In addition to her work at Western, Wright is a strong advocate for her home town. The Wright Foundation supports several organizations in Strathroy and now, at age 98, Mary is currently living in Strathroy close to the new school site.


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