Getting to Know
Dean Betty Merchant
As the eldest of six children, Betty Merchant was born in Rouses Point, New York, a small village located on the shores of Lake Champlain, at the intersection of the Canadian and Vermont borders. Her mother, Lucille, earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics, and infused her children with a love of learning. Since her home language was French, Lucille also instilled in her children a deep appreciation for multilingualism and cultural diversity. Betty’s father, Earl, was a trainman on the railroad from New York City to Montreal that also employed both of her grandfathers as section men, who laid and repaired the tracks.
One of 35 students in her high school class, Dr. Merchant received her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY, Plattsburgh, 30 miles from her home. The years that followed brought her across the country, to the southwest, and eventually, to The University of Texas at San Antonio.
In 2001, Merchant was appointed as the first department chair in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD). In 2005, she was named Dean of the COEHD and since then has been making her mark in the college, and in the community.
In 2012, Merchant was named the first recipient of the Henrietta Zezula Lowak Endowed Distinguished Professorship.
"I consider it a great honor," Merchant said. "The fact that the professorship was named in honor of Loretta Clarke's mother, who was also a teacher, makes it even more meaningful."
This October, the San Antonio Women’s Chamber of Commerce (SAWCC) gave Merchant the North Star award for her advocacy and support of women.
In a statement, the SAWCC said Merchant, “ceaselessly navigates platforms that highlight opportunities for women, such as the establishment of the Consortium for Social Transformation, a ground breaking initiative which serves Women’s Studies, African American Studies, and Mexican American Studies as well as strongly supporting the efforts of the Women’s Rape Crisis Counseling Center and other organizations providing community assistance to women and their families.”
In addition to all of her professional commitments, her eight pets (three dogs and five cats) keep her busy at home. To help her keep her balance in her very busy life, Merchant tries to work out every day and this past spring, she ran her first 5K: the Run 4 Hope 5K Run/Walk sponsored by the Rape Crisis Center of San Antonio. Merchant placed first in her age category.
Merchant is the proud mother of a son and a daughter, both of whom are alums of UTSA and live in San Antonio. Her son, Damon, graduated from the College of Business, and her daughter, Danica, received her teaching degree from the COEHD.
- Q: What is your favorite food?
- A: Dark chocolate, MacIntosh apple pie, vanilla ice cream with maple syrup and walnuts, okra and all kinds of fish.
- Q: What is the last movie you saw?
- A: Lincoln
- Q: If you could meet anyone living, or dead, who would you want to meet?
- A: Martin Luther King, Amelia Earhart, Christ, Ghandi, Madeline Albright, Maya Angelou and Emma Tenayuca
- Q: What music is on your Ipod now?
- A: Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Edith Ray, Billie Holiday and Keola Beamer
- Q: How many hours of sleep do you typically get?
- A: 7, like clockwork.