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Leaders and role models, 1950s-2000s

Submitted by Irene Beavers from Ames, Iowa, USA
Professor Emeritus
  • M.S., Home Economics Education, 1953

Kentuckian makes Iowa her home

A $1500 assistantship sparked a 33-year career for Irene Beavers

In 1952, the Iowa State Cooperative Extension Service invested $1,500 in Irene Beavers enabling her to become a masters student in home economics education. Marvin A. Anderson, former dean of university extension, announced that Beavers was the first recipient of the extension assistantship. Upon completion of a master's degree in 1953, Beavers worked one year for the Cooperative Extension Service in the state office, conducting 4-H leader training meetings in counties and also working with the district home economics supervisors.

While working on her masters, Beavers worked with Dr. Hildegarde Johnson, developing the Johnson Home Economics Inventory.

In July 1955, Beavers was offered a job as district home economics supervisor in the Iowa Extension Service working in west central Iowa but headquartered in Curtiss Hall. She held that position until 1960 when she went to the University of Wisconsin as a Ph.D. student in extension administration. She received her Ph.D. degree in 1962 and returned to Iowa in the same position for one year before joining the Federal Extension Service as a program leader for low income families. She conducted state leader training meetings in 32 states for the two years she held the position.

In 1965, Helen L. Hilton asked Beavers to join the home economics education faculty as an adult education specialist. As a result, Beavers gave 23 years to the department before retiring in 1988. She taught adult education methods courses for undergraduates. Later, she taught program planning for adults courses for graduate students, offered in the College of Education.

Her research included "Analysis of tasks in three home related occupations" and "Competencies needed for common tasks in three home related occupations." Masters students completing these projects were Frances Shipley in 1967 and Karen Carpenter in 1968. Other projects included "Identification of competencies for child care occupations" and "Identification of competencies for occupations in institutional and household services." Another area of emphasis was competencies needed by homemaker/home health aides in food production and child care and in caring for the ill or disabled adult.

In October 1965, Beavers was assigned her first international student, Ruangurai Srinilta, from Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand. Thus began Beavers' long association with Thai students and with international students in general. Srinilta received her master's degree in l967 and returned to Kasetsart University as a faculty member in the vocational education department in the College of Education there.

Beavers was invited in April 1977 to Kasetsart University under the World Bank Development of Kasetsart University to help the home economics education department there develop a masters program. This was a three month assignment, resulting in the development of a plan on paper; several years later, after more staff members received advanced degrees, the plan was put into action.

Beavers held other international assignments, in Malaysia and Kenya as an outside evaluator for the home and science departments of universities in the two countries, and in Malaysia for three months editing the proceedings of a regional meeting of extension workers, resulting in a book, "Improving Extension Strategies for Rural Development," published by the University of Pertanian in Malaysia.

During her tenure at Iowa State, Beavers worked with 55 masters students who completed their degrees and 17 Ph.D. students. She retired in May 1988 after 33 years with Iowa State. She was a full professor from 1974 until her retirement in 1988 after which she was named to professor emerita status. She now lives at Green Hills Retirement Community in Ames, Iowa.