An early childhood education trailblazer with strong connections to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is fondly remembered for her ground-breaking work and contributions to education throughout the country.
Bettye Caldwell, who earned a Woman of the Year award from the Ladies Home Journal in 1978, died Sunday at her Little Rock home. She was 91.
“Dr. Caldwell changed the way parents and policymakers understood early childhood development,” said UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson.
Prior to moving to Little Rock, Caldwell directed an early childhood education center in collaboration with Syracuse University researchers and led an effort credited with laying the groundwork for the federal Head Start program.
“Through her research, Bettye Caldwell helped pave the way for Head Start and other early intervention initiatives designed to help ensure that children born into any situation who are shown love and support can learn the skills necessary to succeed in life,” Anderson said.
Caldwell joined UALR in the mid-1970s and continued with the university for about 20 years, eventually earning the position of Donaghey distinguished professor of early childhood education. After retirement, she was granted the title of Donaghey distinguished professor emeritus.
In 2011, UALR unveiled an oil portrait of Caldwell and dedicated the Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Early Childhood Development Classroom, Room 400 in H. Tyndall Dickinson Hall.
Caldwell also is a member of the UALR Heritage Society, which recognizes alumni and friends who make provisions in their estate planning for gifts to the university.
After moving to Little Rock, Caldwell helped establish a project at Kramer School, which offered early education day care for children through age 12. She served as the principal of the school for about three years in the early 1970s.
“The Kramer School project and her ground-breaking research brought national recognition to UALR and students from all across the country to study here,” Anderson said.
Even in her late 80s, Caldwell continued to advocate for the importance of starting the education process early.
A 2013 Syracuse Media Group column noted she wrote to President Obama offering her aid in his call for an increased emphasis on pre-kindergarten education.
“If there’s anything an 88-year-old woman who has trouble walking can do to help, I’m here,” the column quoted her as saying.