Originally called the Eric Pearson Memorial Travel Grant, the award was set up in memory of Eric Pearson, who died on 8 June 1977. The first award was made in 1980.
Eric Pearson was President of the NSW Teachers Federation from 1974 to 1975 and was also President of the Australian Teachers Federation. Eric commenced his teaching career in small country schools as a two year trained teacher, prior to active service in New Guinea and Borneo during World War 2 and subsequently returned to teaching and further study, receiving a PhD from London University. Eric had a distinguished teaching and lecturing career, and was Head of the Department of Education at Sydney Teachers College.