Friday, May 25, 2012

Texas A&M Press Remembers University's First Full-Time Female Professor, Author

Texas A&M University Press mourns the passing of Betty Unterberger, the first woman to join Texas A&M at the rank of full professor with tenure. Unterberger taught history for 36 years until her retirement in 2004.

She passed away May 15 in her College Station home, at the age of 89.

Unterberger, hired by the late General James Earl Rudder in 1968, was also the author of The United States, Revolutionary Russia, and the Rise of Czechoslovakia, published by Texas A&M University Press in 2000. Her classic study of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russiaexamines Woodrow Wilson’s direction of U.S.policy toward Czechoslovakia, as it sought liberation in the early 20th Century.
Rudder asked Unterberger to help internationalize the history department and to build a graduate program. She became the first female in a full professorship at a formerly all-male college.

Unterberger taught Russian foreign policy and Communist China during the Cold War. In 1991, the Collegeof Liberal Arts appointed her to the Patricia and Bookman Peters Professorship in History, which allowed her to accept an exchange professorship at CharlesUniversity in Prague in 1992. While there, she became one of the first Western scholars after the breakup of the Soviet Union to gain access to important historical documents.

Her trip there gave her the idea for her book The United States and the Russian Civil War: The Betty Miller Unterberger Collection of Documents which she felt was her “capstone research contribution to the field of American foreign affairs.”

Following her retirement from Texas A&M, she received a personal letter of appreciation for her service from Leon Panetta, the former director of the CIA.

Underberger received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Syracuse Universityin 1943, a Master of Arts degree from HarvardUniversity in 1946 and a doctorate degree from Duke University in 1950. She began college on a forensics scholarship, but a citizenship course with Syracuse’s only female professor at the time incited her true passion.

A memorial service in her honor was held Sunday, May 20 at 2:00 in the All Faiths Chapel on campus.

Memorial donations may be made to the Texas A&M Foundation for the Betty Miller Unterberger Memorial Account, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. A Facebook page has also been set up for those who knew Unterberger to share their memories and photos.