Dr. Bettye McDonald Caldwell, a national pioneer in early childhood development who earned a Ladies Home Journal “Woman of the Year” award in 1978, will be present at 2 p.m. Monday, March 28, when UALR officials unveil her portrait and dedicate the new Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Early Childhood Development Classroom. An earlier ceremony had been canceled due to inclement weather.
The oil portrait by Little Rock artist Betty Dortch McMath will be unveiled in the lobby of Dickinson Hall, which houses UALR’s College of Education.
“It is fitting not only that we commemorate Dr. Caldwell’s work as a pioneer in education but that we also commemorate her work as an artist who helped children visualize their preferred futures,” said Dr. Angela M. Sewall, dean of UALR’s College of Education.
“It is her work that has led to the creation of better lives and greater possibilities for many young people.”
Caldwell was one of the first researchers to recognize the importance of mother-infant interaction in low-income populations.
“In 1964, few Americans had even let the term ‘day care’ register in their consciousness,” Caldwell has written. “But, as I have suggested in several articles, it was a ‘sleeping giant’ just ready to awaken and move around, jolting many of us into awareness.”
For five years, Caldwell directed one of the early childhood education centers in conjunction with researchers at Syracuse University.
When her physician-husband accepted a position at UAMS, Caldwell met with educators at UALR and the Little Rock School District to develop a special early-elementary school in Little Rock that would offer day care to children from infancy through age 12. The Kramer School was born.
She served as principal of the school from 1972 to 1975 and was professor of education at UALR.
“Dr. Caldwell, who was a Donaghey Professor here, put UALR on the national map with her research and the Kramer School Project,” said Chancellor Joel E. Anderson. “She drew students from across the country to study at UALR.”
In 1976, Caldwell received the Ladies’ Home Journal “Woman of the Year” award, one of 10 women receiving the honor in a ceremony televised by NBC. Other winners included then-First Lady Betty Ford, Metropolitan Opera star Beverly Sills, poet Maya Angelou, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.