Betsy Corlew: A woman of achievement

Sandra ClarkDowntown, Obits

Family and friends will celebrate the life of Elizabeth “Betsy” Maines Corlew on Friday, April 14, at 1 p.m. in the chapel at St. John’s Cathedral. Mrs. Corlew passed away on March 26, 2023, at age 94.

Women had gained the right to vote just eight years before she was born in 1928. Her dad was a civil engineer and had she been born a half-century later, she surely would have been one too.

Look at her achievements, based on her obituary, which is here.

  • Graduated from Old Knoxville High School
  • Graduated from University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in education
  • Longtime member of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral where she served in the teaching, library, video production and Habitat for Humanity ministries.
  • Mother of three daughters
  • Worked in guidance and testing for Knoxville City Schools and for three years with Knox County Schools.

Then the career heats up. Hired by the University of Tennessee as a secretary to Wiley Thomas, director of the cooperative program for engineering students desiring work experience while studying for their degrees, Mrs. Corlew was named director of the program when Mr. Thomas returned to teaching.

In 1980, the University of Tennessee Commission for Women named her one of the “Women of Achievement.” She became the first female chair of the Cooperative Education Division (CED) of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and was the recipient of the 1988 Alva K. Borman Meritorious Service Award of the Society’s Cooperative Education Division.

She also received the 1988 Clement J. Freund Award presented at the ASEE’s annual conference. And when she retired in 1990 as director of the program at UT, she passed the job to her long-time assistant June Moore.

Today, 25 percent of the students at UT’s Tickle College of Engineering are female, according to our best efforts at research. Hopefully, these students and those to come will appreciate the pioneering efforts of women like Betsy Corlew, who went in as a secretary and came out as program director.

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