Education - the greatest gift of all

Dr Margaret Hammer has donated the funds to establish a fellowship in memory of her parents Rae and George Hammer to celebrate and remember the value they placed on education.

Dr Margaret Hammer in the Fryer Library

The Rae and George Hammer Memorial Visiting Research Fellowship provides up to $2,500 a year for Honours, Masters and PhD students from Universities outside of Brisbane to use the collections held in The University of Queensland’s Fryer Library. Applications close on the 28 April 2017.

Rae and George Hammer lived their entire lives in New Zealand and were both proud New Zealanders. They pursued highly successful careers as secondary school teachers and they believed in the transforming power of a university education.


Rae and George Hammer (2nd & 3rd from the left) graduating from Otago University

Dr Hammer remembers their love of learning.

“My parents grew up in a very different age and were both children during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The things they saw and the experiences they had shaped them and their understanding of education forever,” Dr Hammer said.

“I can remember my mother telling me how, as a five year old, she had been devastated to learn that she would have to wait until she was six to start school because the government had decided to raise the school entry age in an effort to save money.”

Rae Hammer ready to start school in 1935

“The sense of injustice she felt never really left her, making her feel that education was a real privilege so it was important to make the most of it while you could,” she said.

They began their teaching careers in 1955 and over the next forty years, became leaders of the teaching profession in New Zealand. George Hammer retired in 1985 after 13 years as a school principal, while Rae Hammer retired, in 1993, after 31 years as a deputy principal. After the death of her parents, Dr Hammer wanted to do something to remember them and to assist young researchers.

She had pursued a career in research herself and knew the difficulty for young researchers to get funding to spend time working at a library or archive.

“I remember travelling to and from London day after day and week after week to complete essential research for my PhD at Cambridge. It was expensive, time-consuming and exhausting so I thought I might be able to help,” Dr Hammer said.

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to honour my beloved parents through this fellowship and to be able to assist the next generation of researchers complete their studies and achieve their dreams,” she said.

More information is available online on the Rae and George Hammer Memorial Visiting Research Fellowship.

If you are interested in supporting this fellowship or creating an award or fellowship, please contact the Library Advancement Manager Erin Pearl, or  + 61 417 325 312 for a confidential conversation.

Rae Hammer 

Rae Hall BA Auckland University (1950)

The daughter of a primary school headmaster and inspector, Rachel Hall (or ‘Rae’ as she much preferred) was a diligent student, with an instinctive flair for languages and a talent for organisation. After a year as a school prefect, she left school from the ‘Lower Sixth’ in 1946 and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Auckland with majors in Latin and History at the end of 1949. When her father’s career took her to Dunedin, she followed and enrolled for a Masters degree in History at Otago University, completing her research thesis while attending the Teachers Training College in Auckland the following year. She received her Master of Arts (Honours) degree in May 1952, her name appearing directly above that of George Hammer on the roll of graduates for the year.

George Hammer 

George Hammer BA Otago University (1950)

George Hammer’s educational journey was much more of a victory against the odds. The son of a shopkeeper, who had struggled to make ends meet during the Depression, he knew how tough life could be without a career or a steady income. Although a clever child – he was dux of his primary school and won a scholarship to the local high school – he battled against osteomyelitis, a chronic bone disease, which required some rather brutal orthopaedic surgery and long spells in hospital. The illness played havoc with his schooling and, during the war, he was classed as ‘medically unfit’ so he ended up working on the railways. This was not something he enjoyed and, when the war ended, he made the life-changing decision to go to university. The first in his family to attend university, he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History, followed by a Master of Arts (Honours) degree in History, attending Training College in Auckland in the same year as his future wife, Rae Hammer. A fantastic effort for someone who had only had one year of secondary schooling!

Last updated:
11 December 2018