Tom O’Donnell (1923 – 2010) professor of inorganic chemistry
Tom O’Donnell was Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Melbourne University from 1979-1988. He was the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships over many years. For a decade in the 70’s Tom O’Donnell was Chair of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria in a period of rapid change and development.
Tom was born in Ballarat in 1923, and educated at St Kevin’s, Toorak before studying at Melbourne University.
Tom has spent all of his adult life at Melbourne University, except for 4 early years with brief stints at Shell and CSIRO. It was very satisfying for Tom, that he has remained active with colleagues on current projects.
He married Pat Galvin at St. Joseph’s; Malvern and within a relatively short time they purchased their home in the then fledgling suburb of Ashburton. They have lived in the same home for 60 years and this home has been our family gathering place.
They enjoyed offering hospitality and both the kitchen and dining room tables hosted many a wonderful meal between family and friends.
Tom and Pat had 8 children – Terry, Tony, Phil, Moira, Clare (Dec), Annie, Dave and Tim. All attended St Michael’s primary school, and later the boys were all educated at St. Kevin’s and the girls at Presentation Convent, Windsor.
Tom was a quality middle-distance athlete and later was instrumental in establishing both the St Kevin’s Old Boys Athletic Club and the Old Paradian’s Athletic Club.
He was always active in his parish where he was a Lector, Minister of the Eucharist (also to the sick), and the Social Justice group. He was a member of the inaugural Diocesan Liturgical Commission.
His major contribution to the Church was in Catholic Education. In the 1960’s, he was asked by the Archbishop to form and chair an advisory committee of academics to recommend on the future of Catholic Education.
For a decade in the 70’s he was Chair of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria in a period of rapid change and development. Tom enjoyed four sabbatical years Cambridge (1954), Chicago (1961), Ontario (1969) and San Francisco (1975) where he worked with international colleagues and made life-long friendships.
He was Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Melbourne University from 1979-1988. He was the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships over many years. He was honoured with a Doctor of Science degree.
His life was centred on his wife and family, but he enjoyed a wide group of valued friends. He enjoyed politics and football and ensured that while at home his children would be Catholic, Collingwood and Labour! “The Age” was mandatory daily reading.
Tom enjoyed a very rich and rewarding life and died peacefully last Sunday at St Vincent’s Hospital. He will be forever loved by his family and all who were privileged to know him.
Master of dangerous chemicals
Professor Emeritus Tom O’Donnell, a Melbourne University research chemist of international standing and a leader in his field, died at St Vincent’s Hospital, aged 86. He earned an international reputation through his innovative experimental work with fluorine – a highly corrosive and potentially dangerous chemical – and its compounds while working with the Melbourne Fluorine Group.
He was also at the centre of a group that reinvigorated Catholic education in Victoria after being invited to join the Catholic Education Advisory Council in 1963; he chaired the academic subcommittee that wrestled with such issues as class-size limits and improved teacher training. In 1973, Tom was appointed inaugural chairman of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.
He was also a consultant to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, a member of the Queen Elizabeth II Fellowship Committee, and the Australian Research Grants Committee (1982-86).
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