IHC pays tribute to former President Donald Beasley

IHC wishes to pay tribute to IHC New Zealand Life Member Donald Beasley and recognise his significant contribution to people with intellectual disabilities.

Donald Beasley was President of the then IHC Parent’s Association from 1964 till 1979, having previously set up the Northland branch. He was made a New Zealand Life Member in 1981.

He promoted some important developments in his time as President including changing the name of the organisation to reflect the support also given to adults and offering support to governments and organisations in the Pacific Islands to promote the establishment of services for people with intellectual disabilities. He also paved the way for widening representation within the organisation – a move that led to the establishment of the IHC New Zealand Council.

On the 40th Anniversary of the New Zealand Society for the Intellectually Handicapped in 1989, Donald Beasley said:

“The striking feature of the society in complete contrast with every other voluntary organisation was the burning conviction of the membership, particularly parents, first that by and large people with intellectual handicap had been severely underestimated and that changes were necessary. This conviction, this zeal, this fire in the belly provided the energy for the work I was able to do and powered the knowledge, professional expertise and authority.”

When Donald Beasley joined the organisation in 1955 he was unusual in that he was not himself a parent of a person with an intellectual disability. He continued to recognise that parents were the driving force of the organisation. “They are the passionate membership,” he is quoted as saying. “We could never have done what we’ve done if it had not been for parents.”

Donald Beasley was a paediatrician with a high profile in medical circles and with strong relationships with allied disability organisations throughout the world. In 1984 the Dunedin-based Donald Beasley Institute was named in his honour – it remains a leader in intellectual disability research today.

“Donald was an outstanding leader of IHC during his term as President, a powerful advocate for the intellectually disabled, a fine paediatrician, a brilliant orator, and a wonderful New Zealander,” Sir Roderick Deane, IHC patron.

Donald Beasley died on 27 December 2017 in Whangarei. He was 97.


Ralph Jones
IHC Chief Executive