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New endowed scholarship honors long-time Centenary professor

SHREVEPORT, LA — Professor Emerita of Mathematics Betty McKnight Speairs '07H celebrated her 91st birthday on Thursday, February 11 by giving Centenary a gift. At a ceremony held in the Hardy Hall of Fame Room, Speairs and Centenary President David Rowe signed the formal agreement establishing the Dr. Betty McKnight Speairs Endowed Scholarship. But first, Provost Jenifer K. Ward led those in attendance in singing "Happy Birthday."

Speairs came to Centenary in 1947 on a one-year appointment that turned into a 40-year career. In her remarks, Dr. Speairs repeatedly referred to her time at Centenary as a blessing, particularly in the way that rooming close to campus brought her into contact with the students.

"I got so acquainted with the students and was with them three meals a day, and at that time we chaperoned parties, hayrides, dances, and slumber parties. Some of them became my best friends. And today some of my best friends are my former students."
Her remarks support an observation made by President Rowe in introductory comments focused on alumni recollections of Dr. Speairs.

"They volunteer those stories to tell us what it means to actually have that type of relationship with a faculty member that's at once rigorous and tough and on the other hand caring, and loving, and nurturing. We talk about that as the iconic Centenary experience. But every iconic experience needs an icon. Betty, I think we would all agree that you are that icon."

Dr. Speairs has remained an active member of the Centenary community since her retirement. She has processed at every Centenary graduation ceremony between 1947 and 2015, many of them in the master’s robe that once belonged to legendary Centenary biology professor Mary Warters. Her continued active support of Centenary is now guaranteed in perpetuity through the Betty McKnight Speairs Endowed Scholarship which will provide need-based aid to deserving Centenary students.

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