|Honorary Degree recipient, Zdenek Matejcek , 1991 (University Secretary fonds)|
Convocation date: October 26, 1991
Discipline / contribution: clinical psychology
Citation / biographical information:
For over half a century, Czechoslovakia has been the conscience of Europe: in 1938 when it was betrayed by the west and the Nazis occupied it; in 1948 when it was abandoned by the west after the communists seized power; and in 1968 when the rest of the world was powerless to prevent the Soviet invasion. Czechoslovakia's "gentle revolution" in November 1989 characterized the dignity, humanity and maturity of this remarkable country.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Today, the University of Saskatchewan is recognizing not only an individual, but a kindly, gifted, humane representative of a country that has a long and distinguished history, a country that embodies some of the finer attributes of western civilization, a country that has produced Masaryk and Havel, Smetana and Dvorak, Comenius and Matejcek.
Dr Matejcek has maintained a prodigious output of books, learned articles and significant research about important and relevant issues — with less than adequate facilities, and in an environment that has, until 1989, been politically unsympathetic.
His early activity (which still continues) was concerned with dyslexia, but the emphasis of his work moved to a broader concern about childhood deprivation. His unprecedented longitudinal study of unwanted children is already a classic, and is still continuing.
But Zdenek Matejcek is no mere ivory tower academic. His research is rigorous, comprehensible and activated by a human being who cares about the children with and for whom he is working. One product of his endeavours was a film "Children Without Love" which was a prizewinner at the Cannes Rim Festival and — perhaps more remarkably — helped to persuade the communist regime of the day to introduce maternity leave legislation that was more advanced than that which we have today
He is a revered figure beyond the confines of his clinic. Before the communist regime closed in, he had inaugurated a Children's Village for orphaned children, now happily restored after the "gentle revolution" of 1989. In 1990, he became president of the Czech and Slovak Committee for the United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Born in Kladruby, Czechoslovakia, where his father was director of the State Horse Farm, Dr Matejcek worked in the Bata shoe factory during the Nazi occupation. He later studied philosophy, psychology, and the history of literature before specializing in clinical psychology. After working in Prague's child psychiatric service, he has been on the teaching staff of the Department of Paediatrics of the Postgraduate Medical Institute, Prague, with the associate academic rank of Professor of Clinical Psychology at Charles University.
In honouring Dr Zdenek Matejcek today, the University of Saskatchewan is bringing honour to itself.
Degree presented by: John McLeod
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