Celebrating a Legacy


New exhibit salutes KSU President Emeritus Betty Siegel

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov 14, 2017) — A new exhibit that opened Monday at Kennesaw State — Dr. Betty L. Siegel: A Legacy in Three Acts — pays homage to the University’s second president, whose 25 years at the helm saw explosive growth and established KSU as a “rising star” among the state’s academic institutions.

The permanent exhibit of photographs and artifacts is installed on the ground floor of the award-winning Dr. Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center, a building opened and named in her honor in 2015. The exhibit, which was created by Kennesaw State’s Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, is open for public viewing.

“Betty Siegel will forever be synonymous to KSU,” said Kennesaw State President Sam Olens. “This exhibit and this building assure that she is enshrined at the University where she has left an indelible mark.”

Betty Siegel

The exhibit’s five panels capture Siegel’s most memorable quotes and accomplishments. “Act One - The Early Years” highlights Siegel’s journey to becoming the University System of Georgia’s first female president in 1981. In Act Two, titled “Breaking Barriers,” a panel describes her efforts to create leadership opportunities for women and expand career choices for students. It also emphasizes her stewardship of the University as it grew from 3,500 to 18,000 students and from offering 15 undergraduate degrees to 55 undergraduate and graduate degrees by her retirement in 2006. Act Three, “Wintering into Wisdom,” highlights Siegel’s post retirement work as a consultant to public, private and nonprofit organizations and securing a $1 million endowment for the Siegel Institute of Leadership, Ethics and Character at Kennesaw State. It’s a time when Siegel’s many accomplishments converge into one mission as a “minister for education.”

The exhibit was designed by the museums department’s communication and design specialist, Kate Daly, and curated by Tamara Livingston, executive director. The panels combine with a display of historical and iconic photos and artifacts. including a signed basketball and baseball commemorating championships and the role she played in ushering in NCAA intercollegiate sports at Kennesaw State; a pair of the red glasses that became her signature look; a whimsical stick sculpture and hand mask; and momentous plaques and awards.

Catherine Lewis, assistant vice president of Museums, Archives and Rare Books, said the opening of the student recreation center named in Siegel’s honor presented the perfect opportunity to create an exhibit about her.

“Everybody has a Betty story,” said Lewis, who recounted her story of meeting Siegel in Waffle House to discuss a Holocaust museum and leaving with a job. “When we built this beautiful building, I knew we were going to have to tell Betty’s story for a new generation of students; every year we get a new crop.”

Betty Siegel

Joining Olens and Lewis in celebrating Siegel’s accomplishments and commemorating the exhibit were Michael Coles, former chairman of the KSU Foundation and namesake for the Michael J. Coles College of Business.  

Coles described Betty Siegel as a “speeding bullet” because she wanted to get so many things done. He also called her “one of Georgia’s great entrepreneurs.”

“As fast as we all tried to keep up with her, we never had time to take a breath,” said Coles. “Her vision of this campus left all of us breathless. I have no doubt that when she came in 1981 and looked out on this campus, everything we see today was crystal clear to her.”

The evening’s last word of tribute went to Joel Siegel, Betty’s husband, who quoted his wife and recalled his own words spoken during the groundbreaking and later the ribbon-cutting for the Betty L. Siegel Student Recreation and Activities Center.  

“All the words often spoken about her – role model, icon, pioneer, legend – are too remote and stratospheric to capture the woman we all know,” Joel Siegel said. “When she is around us, she makes us feel like we’re special. In Betty-world, we all matter, no matter what we do. Betty sees in each of us a boundless capacity for endurance, compassion and kindness – a great nobility of which we all are capable. She is a woman in full – a woman for all seasons.”

— Sabbaye McGriff with Anna Tucker

Photos by David Caselli





A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu