Nutrition Hosts 24th Virginia A. Beal Lecture

Guests at the 24th Annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner

The Department of Nutrition hosted the 24th Annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner on April 30, 2012, in the Amherst Room on the 10th Floor of the Campus Center. The evening celebrated the memory of Professor Virginia Beal, who passed away this December, and focused on child nutrition research and practice, an area near and dear to her heart.

The lecture featured three notable UMass Amherst alumni discussing “The Challenges and Successes of Childhood Nutrition: What Works?” Ann Ferris ‘75, PhD, RD, Director of the Center for Public Health and Health Policy at the University of Connecticut, addressed obesity in children in a talk titled “Turning the Tide on Obesity in Young Children: Interventions that Work.” Ferris discussed the successes and challenges of the Husky Programs, a series of community nutrition outreach programs which seek to provide educational opportunities about healthy food choices, food safety, and physical activity for Connecticut citizens needing assistance.

Jean Anliker ‘85, PhD, RD, of UMass Extension, followed with a presentation on adolescent obesity interventions titled “Moving the Mark in Adolescent Obesity: Interventions that Work.” Anliker discussed her work with the Strength and Power in Nutrition (SPIN) and Challenge! programs, in which she employed social cognitive theory and Lindstrom’s marketing model for tweens to develop highly successful participatory programs that empower adolescents to improve their nutrition habits.

Elizabeth Ward ’84, MS, RD, freelance writer and nutrition consultant, capped the evening’s lectures with a discussion of “Nutrition for Families: Keeping It Real Using Today’s Technology.” Ward discussed how communicating nutrition information and healthy-eating strategies to families are evolving with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and other Internet-based media outlets.

The Beal Lecture and Dinner also featured an awards ceremony in which the Department recognized the recipients of departmental scholarships including the Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships, the Helen S. Mitchell Undergraduate and Graduate Scholarships, and the Peter L. Pellett Graduate Scholarship.

The 2012 scholarship awardees were:

  • Erwin Apaza – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Elizabeth Lundy – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Gina Ruscio – Virginia A. Beal Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Shanshan Chen – Virginia A. Beal Graduate Scholarship
  • Catherine Wickham – Virginia A. Beal Graduate Scholarship
  • Lindsey O’Regan – Helen S. Mitchell Undergraduate Scholarship
  • Sharmin Hossain – Helen S. Mitchell Graduate Scholarship
  • Shanshan Chen – Peter L. Pellett Graduate Scholarship

Throughout the course of the evening, Professor Beal’s legacy remained the focus of attention. Beal, a longtime member of the Food Science and Nutrition faculty from 1971 until 1986, was revered by her peers and impacted generations of students through her teaching and research. Department Head Nancy Cohen, along with Professor Emeriti Mokhtar Atallah and Peter Pellett, opened the evening with a moving tribute to the late Professor Beal. Many other alumni and friends shared their remembrances of Beal over the course of the evening.

Established through an endowment from Professor Beal, the annual Virginia A. Beal Lecture Series continues through the generosity of many alumni and friends. Beal presented the first lecture in 1989, and 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, Professor Beal endowed a series of scholarships to support nutrition students and a fellowship to support a doctoral student in nutrition.

Cohen has announced a fundraising goal of “25 for 25” in which the Department of Nutrition seeks to raise $25,000 by the 25th anniversary of the Virginia A. Beal Lecture and Dinner in an effort to keep the lecture series alive and flourishing. If you’d like to contribute to the Virginia A. Beal Lecture Series, please follow the link here, choose "School of Public Health and Health Sciences" in the "Allocation" drop-down menu, and then select "Virginia Beal Lecture Fund."

For more information on the Virginia A. Beal Lecture series, contact Nancy Cohen at