Celebrating 50 Years of Service: Beto Chair Attracts Top CJ Scholars to SHSU

Beto Chair Lecture Series featuring profile of Beto.

Since its inception in 1981, the Beto Chair has drawn about 100 top scholars in the field to Sam Houston State University (SHSU) to discuss the current and pressing issues in criminal justice.

Graduate students interact with Beto Lecture speakers, such as Dr. Marvin KrohnGraduate students interact with Beto Lecture speakers, such as Dr. Marvin Krohn. “ from the College of Criminal Justice by bringing in leading figures from the discipline. The Beto Chair originally began with scholars who spent an entire semester at SHSU and later evolved into several lectures and speakers annually.

"Our Ph.D. students get exposure to well recognized scholars in the field,” said Dr. Larry Hoover, a longtime professor at the College of Criminal Justice. “For researchers invited to be visiting scholars it was an opportunity to spend an extended period of time in Texas at a recognized criminal justice program. The visiting scholars developed a deep-felt respect for our program and faculty. It enhanced our reputation and the work done here.”

Beto Lectures focus on graduate students, but also served undergraduates and faculty.Dr. Bruce Budowle was one of the Beto Lecture speakers for 2014.In the near future, the Beto Chair is expected to revert to its original format of inviting scholars to spend an entire semester at the College of Criminal Justice, offering several lectures and allowing collaboration on emerging research issues.

For many scholars and researchers, the visiting scholar role was a prestigious appointment, often included as a top accomplishment on their résumés. For students, it provided an opportunity to learn from some of the best academics in the world, even beyond the world-renown faculty available at the College of Criminal Justice.

Dr. Dorothy Bracey
Dr. Dorothy Bracey
Dr. Dorothy Bracey, former Chair of the Anthropology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, was one of the early pioneers in the program and the first woman appointed to the position. She spent a semester at SHSU in 1986 lecturing on social/cultural issues and crime and still carries fond memories of her interactions with students, faculty and the Texas way of life.

“I had just come out of a long personnel meeting at John Jay – I was the chair of the Department at the time – and one of the first things that I saw was the invitation,” Bracey recalls. “Did that make my day, my week and my year! It was a great honor to be invited.”

During the semester, Dr. Bracey taught two classes – a graduate level course in International Criminal Justice and a Ph.D. course in Anthropology and the Law. She became close to several of the students and still communicates with them. She enjoyed interacting with faculty members like Drs. Rolando del Carmen and Larry Hoover. But her favorite was Dr. George Beto, whom she frequently met during morning coffee at the CJava Café.

“It was a very active and alive place, and people just accumulated there,” said Bracey. “Dr. Beto would frequently come for breakfast with big notables or alone. It was a wonderful way to start the day.”
Bracey recalls that Dr. Beto was shy with women and asked a colleague to check in on her about how she was enjoying the Beto Chair. When Dr. Bracey reported that she felt she was being sheltered from the real Texas, Dr. Beto invited her to a cattle fair, where she instantly learned all she wanted to know about cuts of beef. She even wore boots and a Stetson for the event.

“It meant a lot to me,” said Dr. Bracey. “The Beto Chair at the College was one of the most prominent in the field. …What Sam Houston State started was innovative.”

Dr. Joh DiIulio
Dr. John DiIulio, the Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion, and Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, called the lecture series one of the most significant things he did in his career. After the lecture, DiIulio went on to become the first Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush.

Dr. DiIulio was a huge fan of Dr. Beto and frequent visitor to SHSU during the writing of his first book, which compared three different state prison systems, including Texas.

“I have done hundreds of conferences and done various lectures at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of California at Berkeley,” said Dr. DiIulio. “But giving a lecture in his (Dr. Beto’s) honor was easily one of the most significant things I have done in my career.”

Dr. DiIulio, who presented a lecture on “Violent Crime, Representative Democracy and Religion” in 1996, said Dr. Beto was a “giant” in the field and had a feel for the role of religion in public affairs. His name commanded respect in the political field and helped establish the importance of the College and the lecture series in criminal justice.

“The Beto Lecture has a special place in the field,” said Dr. DiIulio. “It is at the intersection of scholar and practitioner. It is where the scholar meets real world problems.”

Dr. DiIulio said the series established a community at SHSU, not only among the faculty, staff and students, but with visitors who came from outside institutions. It created the opportunity to explore and debate issues among those immersed in the field. During his stay, Dr. Dilulio recalled many invigorating discussions, especially on the emerging issue of privatization of prison, among faculty and students from the College and officials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“It brought everyone together and made the lecturer feel like part of the community,” DiIulio said. “It became a ‘mutual gift’ relationship. I fed on that and it sustained my own interest in the field.”

Dr. David BayleyDr. David BayleyDr. David Bayley, Professor Emeritus at the University of Albany (SUNY) School of Criminal Justice, is a specialist in international criminal justice, particularly in policing. After collaborating with Dr. Hoover on a book on police research methodology, he was invited to serve as the Beto Chair in 1998. He was invited back in 2006 to discuss America’s Role in International Criminal Justice.

“I had a great time, and I considered it a great honor,” said Dr. Bayley.

Dr. Bayley said the College of Criminal Justice created something of which it can be proud.

”They must have understood that it would be a feather in Sam Houston’s cap to be able to do this – to bring in big people in the field would help them to stand taller,” said Bayley.

Most of the Beto Chair lectures are still available at www.betochair.com. They cover a broad array of topics in the criminal justice field, including law enforcement, corrections, victim studies, forensics, security studies as well as researching skills. The lecture continues to be offered twice a year, with fall lectures from Dr. James Forest from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Dr. Michael Maxfield of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who will be featured at the 50th Anniversary Presentations and Panels (http://www.cjcenter.org/50th/present.htm)

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