In Memoriam: Virginia Beal
Virginia A. Beal, Professor Emerita of Nutrition, who endowed and inspired the nutrition lecture series that bore her name, passed away on December 14, 2011. She was a member of the Food Science and Nutrition faculty from 1971 until her retirement in 1986.
Professor Beal was born on Oct. 31, 1918, in Hull, MA, and received a bachelor’s degree from Simmons College in 1939 and a Master’s degree in Public Health, cum laude, from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1946. She began work in the Child Research Council of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver in 1946, where she remained as head of the nutrition studies. She became assistant professor of human growth and then assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the Colorado Medical School until 1971. At that time, she joined the UMass Amherst faculty as associate professor, rising to full professor in 1978. She retired as professor emerita in 1986.
She was a fellow of the American Public Health Association and American Society of Nutrition and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the Society for Nutrition Education and the New York Academy of Sciences. Her pioneering work and expertise in nutrition and growth was called upon by various national organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the Children’s Bureau, the National Research Council, the American Heart Association, the Nutrition Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a consultant or as a member of expert committees.
She was a panel member of the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health. She received a Medallion Award from the American Dietetic Association in 1982 and was a Centennial Scholar at Case Western University in 1980. She was a visiting lecturer at 15 universities in the United States and Canada between 1953 and 1983, and presented speeches at international meetings in Sweden, Japan and Canada.
Closer to home, she received the Student Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition in 1974, and in 1985 gave the Chancellor’s Lecture and received the Chancellor’s Medal.
She was the author of the standard textbook Nutrition in the Life Span, and a co-author of three books. She was author or co-author of 50 articles published in professional journals from 1943 to 1984.
She gave an endowment to the campus to begin the annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture Series, sponsoring current lectures in the field of nutrition and two scholarships to nutrition students, to continue long after her passing. The Beal Lecture was initiated in 1989 and continues through the generosity of many alumni and friends to honor the contributions she made to her profession and the students she influenced. Virginia A. Beal presented the first lecture. In the intervening years, well-known scholars in the field of nutrition have been invited to speak and honor her. In addition to the lectureship and scholarships, Professor Beal recently endowed a fellowship to support a doctoral student in nutrition.
“We will sorely miss her support and encouragement of the nutrition faculty, staff and students, along with her friendship and mentorship,” notes Nancy Cohen, Head of the Nutrition Department. “Her strength and individuality were inspirations to so many, as were her many contributions to the field of nutrition and child health.”