Dr Betty Parr OBE (Gravenall)

1930 Collegian | Deceased


By 1931, when Betty Gravenall started studying education and modern languages at the University of Western Australia, she already had the reputation of being an accomplished pianist.

She obtained her First Class Honours in French and on graduating began her teaching career at MLC.

While teaching, Betty regularly gave recitals around Perth. She appeared on the front page of The Sunday Times on May 19, 1937 after being selected by "the world-famous Moiseiwitsch to appear on his concert platform. Such a distinction rarely comes to any girl, wherefore Perth is proud. Incidentally, Miss Gravenall was announced yesterday as a Hackett Studentship winner."

Before she sailed to continue her studies in London, Betty gave a farewell recital at the Assembly Hall, which critics applauded.

Betty gained her doctorate from the University of London and she found herself teaching in Cheshire, England.

During the war, Betty left her teaching post and was the Senior Temporary Assistant at the UK Ministry of Food. In 1944, she joined The British Council, an organisation that promotes international relations through culture and the arts. Betty Thirsk was a junior who worked under Betty in the late 1940s. She said: "Dr Gravenall was a forceful character and was Education."

During this time the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) was in its infancy and Betty was involved in its first seminar in Britain in 1948, which became known as the Ashridge Seminar. The purpose was to discuss teacher education and training, one of Betty's passions.

As the seminar's Social Director, it was Betty's job to break down the barriers between participants. She wrote: "It is impossible to convey the atmosphere of an international seminar. The most surprising thing about the Ashridge Seminar was the speed with which participants became part of the society created there, lost their self-consciousness, forgot or overcame their language difficulties and acquired a sense of comradeship and co-operation."

Betty Gravenall was married in Devonshire in 1954 to Arthur John Parr. She received an OBE for her service to Education.