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Betty Jean Furgerson papers

Identifier: IWA0111

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Scope and Contents

The Betty Jean Furgerson papers date from 1921 to 2010 and measure 6 linear feet. The papers are arranged in seven series: Personal life, Post-secondary education, Professional life, Iowa Public Television, State Board of Regents, Resource files, and Photographs.

The Personal life series (1940-2010 and undated) contains material that reflects Furgerson's interests in the arts and civic participation in her community. Included are correspondence that cover more than two decades of friendship between the Furgerson family and members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. This series includes an extensive personal correspondence series. Included are greeting cards, graduation invitation and letters from friends and family. The greeting card collection is composed of Christmas, birthday, and thank you cards. Some of the cards contain extensive writing, but the majority of them are composed of a closing signature. Included are also a number of letters and a grade book for Furgerson's mother. The folder dedicated to Furgerson's elementary education contains some of her early report cards. This series also contains newspaper clippings about family members, which describe their involvement in Waterloo organizations and their achievements.

Furgerson's educational background is documented in the Post-secondary education series (1942-1974 and undated). The folders in the series are arranged by school, with the University of Kansas folders arranged by the class number assigned by the university. The concert programs from Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) reflect Furgerson's involvement in the Dimensions in Jazz concert series.

The Civic and professional activities series (1947-1999), contains material that documents Furgerson's occupations, and reflects her commitment to civic participation. Most of the information relates to committees and commissions concerned with education. She was appointed to many of these by the Iowa Governor or state legislature. Furgerson has also been a member of numerous boards in local organizations. A portion of the materials reflects her tenure as director of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission from 1974 to 1992.

Betty Jean Furgerson served as the president of the Iowa Public Television Broadcasting Board. The papers in the Iowa Public Television series (1976-2000) document this role. The series contains information on funding for public television and the construction and implementation of the first two phases of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN). It also includes minutes from the 461 Task Force (named after House File 461) that was formed to study the consequences of converting the ICN to a public utility.

The State Board of Regents series (1984-1997) documents part of Furgerson's six-year term as a regent from 1989 to 1995. Two subseries, Administrative records and Topical files, comprise this series. The Administrative records subseries contains meeting minutes which reflect the board's role as trustee of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Also included are the minutes of the banking committee and correspondence and material related to the search for two university presidents. The Topical files subseries contains papers on issues of particular interest to Furgerson. The primary topics of these materials are recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty and cultural diversity at the regents' institutions.

The Resource files series (1984-1997) contains documents that reflect Furgerson's interests in education and her involvement in civic activities. Included are national, state, and regional reports on the status of education. It also includes some material on Iowa economic trends.


  • Creation: 1921-2010


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Betty Jean (B.J.) Furgerson, teacher, social worker, human rights commission director and university regent, was born on March 10, 1927. She was the second of five children of Lee B. and Lily Furgerson. Her father, Lee Burton Furgerson, practiced medicine in Waterloo for twenty-one years until his death in 1948. He was active in many community groups and was also the president of a savings and loan company at the time of his death. Lily Furgerson taught fourth, fifth and sixth grades in the Waterloo school district from 1952 to 1971, the first African American allowed to teach in that system.

Betty Jean Furgerson graduated from East Waterloo High School in 1945. She began her college life at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, in the autumn of 1945. Furgerson transferred first to the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa) and then to Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) where, in 1952, she earned her B.A. in secondary education with a concentration in art. Eighteen years later Furgerson entered the University of Kansas School of Social Work and acquired an M.S.W. in 1972.

Growing up, Furgerson developed a great appreciation for jazz. She and her family often traveled to Chicago and other locations to see various jazz bands. They developed lasting friendships with some of the members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The musicians often visited the Furgersons' home when they performed in or near Waterloo and exchanged correspondence with Betty Jean, her mother and her brother Lee while they were on tour.

Betty Jean Furgerson's work experience included several positions that drew on her abilities as an educator, social worker and leader. She first found employment as an instructor of adult crafts and children's art at the Waterloo Recreation Center. For two years she worked as an assistant in the health education department of the Waterloo YWCA before becoming a district advisor to the Conestoga Council of Girl Scouts in Waterloo, Iowa, from 1958 to 1967. She served as the director of Homemaking/Home-Health Aid Project with the Family Service League during the six months of the project's funding in 1967. Furgerson also directed parent education for the Black Hawk County Head Start program, including four and a half months as the acting director of education from 1967 to 1970. Upon returning to Waterloo following her graduate work at the University of Kansas, Furgerson served as the administrative coordinator for the Community Consortium, a group formed to provide support for the Waterloo school system's desegregation plan, for a year. In 1974, she became the director of the Waterloo Human Rights Commission, a position she held for the next eighteen years. As a leader Furgerson has served her local community and state on several boards in various capacities.


6.00 Linear Feet

Photographs in boxes 1 and 2. boxes

Language of Materials



Teacher, social worker, human rights commission director, and university regent from Waterloo.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 174) were donated by Betty Jean Furgerson in 1995.

Related Materials

Penny Thomas Furgerson papers (IWA): Penny Furgerson is the sister-in-law of Betty Jean Furgerson. Lileah Furgerson Harris papers (IWA): Lileah Harris is the sister of B.J. Furgerson. Martha Ann Furgerson Nash papers (IWA): Martha Nasha is the sister of B.J. Furgerson. Iowa Women's Hall of Fame records (IWA).

Randel W. Lackore, 1996, Eugenia M. Hernandez, 1999. Suzanne A. Vesely, 2001.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)