Graduation story: KU degrees separated by nearly 40 years for longtime educator

KUEC News Release

LAWRENCE — Betty Amos was born in 1948, the year the University of Kansas football team went to the Orange Bowl for the first time. In 1968, she was in the midst of her undergraduate years at KU when the team made it to the Orange Bowl again. Unfortunately, the Jayhawks lost both of those games.

Flash forward 40 years. Amos was back at KU, and the Jayhawks were headed to the Orange Bowl for a third time. Finally, 2008 would prove to be a good year for both. KU won the game, and Amos reached the Mount Everest of academia: the doctoral degree.

Amos first came to KU to pursue a teaching degree after deciding in third grade that she wanted to devote her life to education. She earned her bachelor’s in special education in 1970 and went on to a 30-year career in education, teaching in Grand Island, Neb., and Hoxie and Colby, Kan., and serving as principal in Marquette, Kan. In 1984, she was named Kansas Teacher of the Year, which she calls “a fabulous and humbling honor.”

For the past three years, Amos has been assistant director, then executive director of the Central Kansas Cooperative in Education in Salina, an organization that provides special education services and support for children in 12 school districts.

She was encouraged to go after a doctorate by her colleagues at the Associated Colleges of Central Kansas, a consortium of six private colleges in central Kansas, where Amos taught future special education teachers for five years. She chose to return to KU, home of the nation’s No. 1 ranked special education graduate program.

The road to her degree was a long one, literally and figuratively. She began her studies in 2002 while living in a rural area between Lindsborg and Marquette, about 200 miles from KU’s Edwards Campus in Overland Park, where most of her classes were held. She passed the three-hour trips by listening to her textbooks on tape, recording ideas for papers and coursework, and planning her daily schedule for home and work.

“I drove hundreds of miles,” Amos said. “Every one was worth it.”

On top of hectic schedule that included school and her full-time job in Salina, life dealt her a seismic blow. Her husband, Bruce, found out he had colon cancer in January 2007.

Amos, who had completed her comprehensive exams and was embarking on dissertation research, dropped everything to be with him. After several rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries, Bruce Amos is now cancer free. Back at school, Betty Amos turned 60 just a few days before successfully defending her dissertation.

“I figured if he could conquer cancer, I could handle a dissertation,” she said.

Amos will attend KU’s doctoral hooding ceremony Saturday, May 17, with her family: Bruce, son Darin, daughter Kara and daughter Megan, who is skipping her own graduation at Kansas State University to attend her mother’s hooding.

“Betty served as an inspiration to many of our doctoral students who were in awe of her energy, enthusiasm and stamina while holding on to her health, her job and her doctoral program,” said Gary Clark, professor of special education.

Amos said she is thrilled to be a two-time KU graduate.

“KU has always been close to my heart,” she said. “I’ve loved every moment.”


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