Remembering UH Alumna and Longtime Educator Betty Barr
November 4, 2019
Rashda Khan
Betty J. Barr, UH alumna and pioneer female faculty member at the Cullen College of Engineering.
Betty J. Barr, UH alumna and pioneer female faculty member at the Cullen College of Engineering.

Barr was one of the first female faculty members at the Cullen College of Engineering

Betty J. Barr, University of Houston alumna and beloved longtime educator at UH Cullen College of Engineering, died Nov. 1, 2019. She was 74.

Barr was a lifelong Cougar, earning her B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics from UH in 1967, 1969 and 1971, respectively. She joined the Cullen College in 1971 as a linear algebra instructor in the Department of Industrial Engineering, becoming one of the first female faculty at the college.

As a pioneer, Barr charted a career for herself and served as a mentor to other women who decided to pursue engineering.

“There was no women’s bathroom in the building,” she recalled in a previous article, noting that there were hideaway facilities for administrative staff. “We had to lobby to take one of the men’s restrooms for ourselves.” And she did.

Barr later moved to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where she helped build and modify the undergraduate curriculum. She also taught a large number of courses and advised generations of Cougar engineers during her 30-year tenure as the department’s primary undergraduate advisor.

She was promoted to associate professor and named associate chair of the department in 2003.

“I enjoy working with students. I am a teacher,” Barr shared in a previous article. “There’s such joy at graduation, watching the students start as freshmen, struggle through and finally make it.”

During her tenure at UH, Barr earned numerous awards for teaching and her commitment to students. She received a Teaching Excellence Award from the University in 2011, the George Magner Academic Advising Award in 1993 and was the first recipient of the of the University’s Provost Faculty Advising Award in 2007. The Cullen College presented her the Career Teaching Award twice.

In addition, she was honored by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Region IV with an Outstanding Educator Award and by the UH Engineering Alumni Association with the Abraham Dukler Distinguished Engineering Faculty Award in 2005. UH engineering student organizations also recognized her with an Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award in 1993.

Over the years, she also served as the faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers and the Texas Epsilon Chapter of Tau Beta Pi. She also designed mathematical problems for her peers to solve in the slide rule competition at the annual IEEE Chili Cook Off.

“Dr. Barr epitomized dedication to students, and her office…was chock full of files, with barely space for her desk. She was also a massive storehouse of departmental operational knowledge, and much of it was in her brain,” said Badri Roysam, Hugh and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor and electrical and computer engineering department chairman.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do without Betty Barr,” Roysam said when Barr wrapped up her 40-year career by retiring in 2011.

“Our faculty, staff and students are deeply saddened by this news,” said Joseph W. Tedesco, Elizabeth D. Rockwell Dean of the Cullen College. “We were blessed to have her share her extensive knowledge, unfailing dedication and expertise with our community. Our hearts go out to her family and loved ones at this very difficult time.”

The UH Alumni Association will fly the flag in front of the Alumni Center, 3204 Cullen Blvd., at half-staff from Friday, Nov. 8 to Monday, Nov. 11 in honor of Barr, who was a UHAA Life Member. 

Visitation for Barr will be held 4-7 p.m. on Friday, November 8, 2019, at the Heights Funeral Home, 1317 Heights Blvd. Her funeral service is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 9, also at the Heights Funeral Home.

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