Dr. Betty Pearce Stephenson
Anesthesiologist, BA 1947
Dr. Betty Stephenson is among those who helped pave the way for future generations of women to pursue their dreams. As a young girl, Betty had an experience that cemented in her mind a desire to become a doctor. A neighbor’s dog had prematurely given birth to a litter of puppies. Betty tried frantically, but to no avail, to get the puppies to breathe. It was then that she decided she wanted to go to medical school to gain the knowledge necessary to save lives. Looking back on the situation, she realizes that even with the knowledge she has today, she would not have been able to save those premature puppies. But, that crystallized moment, helped lead Betty in a direction that would impact the lives of many for years to come.
When Betty expressed her plan to become a doctor, her determination was not deterred by the chiding of her elders, “Honey, don’t you mean a nurse?”
We are sorry that, due to ill health, Betty is unable to be here with us today. This presentation is being recorded and will be sent to her. Betty, we send you our love and appreciation for your dedication to mend the human body and the human spirit, and for the tremendous contribution your life has been to the success of Hardin-Simmons University.
Betty Pearce Stephenson was born January 31, 1927 in Abilene, Texas. She grew up in an era fraught with difficulty and uneasy growth. She attended school during the 30s and 40s, and it was in high school that a biology teacher gave her encouragement to pursue her dream to be a doctor. World War II was underway when she graduated from high school and entered Hardin-Simmons University. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from HSU in 1947. Following a year of graduate work in chemistry at the University of Colorado, she entered Baylor College of Medicine.
In 1951, while a student at Baylor, Betty met and married fellow medical student Charles T. Stephenson, whom she calls “Steve.” The two graduated from Baylor in 1953 and both spent their internships in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1953 to 1954, then returned to Baylor College of Medicine for their residency programs. They remained on the faculty and in practice in Houston until their retirements in 1997. Until 1992, when Charles moved to Texas Children’s Hospital, the couple worked together in the operating room.
Betty and Charles have four children, Patricia, Karen, Tom, and John. Throughout her busy career and while raising a family (which yes, at times, required climbing trees to fetch down stubborn little boys), Betty found time to participate in professional associations. She served as president of the Texas Society of Anesthesiologists and the Gulf Coast Society of Anesthesiologists. Betty served three years on the executive board of the Harris County Medical Society, an organization of 5,500 members, before becoming the first woman president of the society. She was a member of the Harris County Medical Society since 1957, but wasn’t active until 1974 because she chose to be involved in the lives of her children. While balancing ballet lessons, Little League baseball, and Scout meetings, she also shouldered her civic responsibilities and demonstrated leadership. She served on the board of San Jacinto Girls Scouts and worked with the budget panel of the United Way for four years. As a member of the Bellaire United Methodist Church, she served on the admissions board and the board of trustees. She was president of the Baylor College of Medicine Alumni Association.
She served as president of the Texas Medical Association from 1994 to 1995, and as TMA treasurer from 1986 to 1989 and as secretary-treasurer from 1983 to 1993. She also has been a member of the TMA Board of Trustees and an alternate delegate to the American Medical Association House of Delegates.
In 1986, Dr. Stephenson received the distinguished alumni award from Hardin-Simmons. Her citation was read by longtime friend and fellow pioneering spirit in the field of women physicians, Virginia Connally. Dr. Connally, the first female physician in Abilene, set an example that Betty was proud to follow. The two met when Betty was a student at HSU and worked in the Hendrick Hospital Pharmacy. Virginia became a mentor for Betty, and they have remained fast friends for more than 60 years.
She has also been active in the Baylor College of Medicine Alumni Association, Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Medical Science, and the HSU Board of Development.
She and her husband are currently members of Sugar Land First United Methodist Church. With dogged determination, Betty Pearce Stephenson has overcome obstacles of society, has worked to better the medical profession, and has shared her time and resources with this University. Betty has truly been an example of the Proverbs 31 woman, and we at Hardin-Simmons University join with her children to “arise and call her blessed.”
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Betty Jo (Pearce) Stephenson into the HSU Hall of Leaders.