Act Two - (1953-2006)
Betty Faye Lentz remained single until her mid thirties, when she met another professor, Dr. Joel Siegel. She later had two sons born only 15 months apart only after becoming the first female dean of a university and earning four advanced degrees. She tells the story of being pregnant when she was hired at Florida State:
My husband and I accepted a job at the University of Florida after he had finished his doctorate and I had done my post doctorate. We’d come from Indiana University to the University of Florida. I showed up six months pregnant. This was unheard of, unheard of in 1967. And I don’t know what possessed me, but I had the chutzpah to say to the faculty, to the men, that I’m going to have the baby during the quarter break don’t worry about a thing it’s going to be all right. I laughed and asked them to keep the water boiling on the third floor of Norman Hall.
I finished my last exam, just as I told the men I would, went out to eat, went to a movie and straight to the hospital. I had my baby in the hall in the hospital. I graded the papers while I was in the hospital, and my husband took all the exams into my office before any of the male professors. I became known at the University of Florida as “that woman.”
While at Western Carolina University, an offer to submit my recommendations came across her desk for the presidency of a small college with the nickname "Harvard in the Pines" in a place Dr. Siegel had never heard of before. About the same time, an employee told Dean Betty Siegel about a "neat little place called Marietta and a sweet little school called Kennesaw." Dr. Siegel recalled the offer to submit, found the ad on her desk, and discovered the deadline was that very day. She called and asked if it was too late for her to apply for the position. And the rest is history.
Although Dr. Siegel had other offers, she was intrigued by Kennesaw College. In 1980, this little college fit the profile of the "universities of the future." It was in the south in a growing metropolitian area, located on an economic thoroughfare I-75, and focused on non-traditional students.
In 1981, Dr. Betty Lentz Siegel became the first female president in the Georgia University System. Dr. Siegel wanted Kennesaw to be a college of meaning - more than a collection of courses or a "Drive-in college." Dr. Siegel remembers:
We used to have the term, “parking lot, classroom, parking lot.” I didn’t want our students to come and just have an in-class experience. I wanted them to have a total experience. I wanted them to have a life changing experience.
In addition to being the first woman to serve in the Georgia University System, she holds the record as the longest serving female president in the country. In her 25 years as president of Kennesaw College,then Kennesaw State University, here are a few of her accomplishments:
- 3,500 students in 1981 grew to 18,000 at her retirement in 2006
- 15 degree college became a university with 55 undergraduate and graduate degrees
- The First Year Experience was developed during the Siegel years and continues to win national recognition
- In 1985, Kennesaw State was named by researchers at George Mason University: "a college on the move" and spotlighted in the book, Searching for Academic Excellence: Twenty Colleges and Universities on the Move and their Leaders
- In 1991, U.S. News and World Report recognized KSU as a "rising star," naming it number one in the South
- In Fall 2003 Kennesaw State was named by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities as one of the twelve founding institutions included in its program entitled, Foundations of Excellence in their First College Year
- Most recently KSU was ranked number 1 out of 25 institutions noted for their learning community programs by U.S. News and World Report and received mention for fits first year freshman experience programs
- In 2003, KSU received a million dollar donation to underwrite the work of the RTM Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character. They also endowed The Betty L. Siegel Endowed Chair of Leadership, Ethics and Character
Dr. Betty L. Siegel currently holds The Betty L. Siegel Endowed Chair of Leadership, Ethics and Character.
So, what was next? A quiet retirement in her beach condo? Not a chance….