Dr. Betty Unterberger, the first woman to join Texas A&M University at the rank of full professor with tenure and who taught history there for 36 years until her retirement in 2004 at age 81, passed away Tuesday (May 15) at her home in College Station. She was 89.
A memorial service in memory of Prof. Unterberger will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the All Faiths Chapel on the Texas A&M campus.
Unterberger spent her life championing freedom of discussion and inspiring curiosity. Born in Scotland in 1922 and raised in the United States, Prof. Unterberger received a Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University in 1943, a Master of Arts from Harvard University in 1946, and earned a Ph.D. from Duke University in 1950. She initially began college on a forensics scholarship, but a citizenship course with Syracuse University’s only female professor at the time incited Prof. Unterberger’s true passion.
In addition to her long tenure at Texas A&M, Prof. Unterberger was a prominent figure in a variety of activities pertaining to national affairs and international relations, including service on the CIA Advisory Committee for Access to Documents and Open Information. She was a leading voice and advocate for the Freedom of Information Act for more than 30 years, colleagues note. Following her retirement from Texas A&M, Unterberger received a personal letter of appreciation for her service from Leon Panetta, the former director of the CIA.
A trailblazer in many areas, Prof. Unterberger was a founding member and first woman president of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and was the first woman to win the “best dissertation award” at Duke University for the years 1950-53.
She joined the Texas A&M faculty in 1968 and was personally interviewed for the position by the late Gen. Earl Rudder, who was then president of the university and is credited with setting the institution on its present course of national prominence, including ensuring that women —students and faculty — were better represented.
In 1991, the College of Liberal Arts appointed Prof. Unterberger to the Patricia and Bookman Peters Professorship in History. The Peters Professorship made it possible for Prof. Unterberger to accept an exchange professorship at Charles University in Prague in 1992. There, Prof. Unterberger became one of the first Western scholars after the breakup of the Soviet Union to gain access to important historical documents.
This time period resulted in her publication of “The United States and the Russian Civil War: The Betty Miller Unterberger Collection of Documents,” which Prof. Unterberger felt was her “capstone research contribution to the field of American foreign affairs.”
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.
For more about Professor Unterberger and her many accomplishments at Texas A&M and elsewhere, and for observations by former colleagues, click here
Media contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services at (979) 845-4662