Elizabeth Betty Ann Christensen
1924 - 2014
Betty Christensen taught music in Seventh-day Adventist schools from 1945 to 1985. Except for the first two years, when she taught at Plainview Academy in South Dakota, all of her teaching was in piano and theory at the college level.
Betty was born in Hutchinson, Minnesota, on October 9, 1923, the only daughter of Christian E. and Evalyn E. Christensen. She attended Union College and then graduated from the MacPhail College of Music, now part of the University of Minnesota, with a B.Mus. degree in music education in 1945.
She taught at Southwestern Junior College (1947-51), now Southwestern Adventist University and then served as a graduate assistant in theory at North Texas State University during the 1951-52 school year while completing a master's degree in theory. While there she was elected a member of Pi Kappa Lambda.
From 1952 to 1958, she taught at Union College and then accepted a position at Columbia Union College, now Washington Adventist University, where she taught until 1985. While at CUC she was an exchange teacher during the 1968-69 school year at Newbold College in England.
During her year in England, Christensen took a trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to visit an aunt who was a personal friend of the royal family and had been in their service for thirty years. She was invited to visit with Haile Selassie I, oldest living monarch at that time, whom she had met five years earlier in 1963 at one of President John F. Kennedy's last state receptions.
She would visit with the emperor two more times in the three weeks she was in the country. During her final visit he unexpectedly presented her with a gift, a solid gold jewelry set of five pieces of which there are only two other known sets. The reason for the gift was a mystery. Perhaps it was the fact that Christensen was the first relative of her aunt that he had met.
By the time Christensen retired in 1985 in Silver Spring, Maryland, her tenure at CUC had spanned four decades, longest of any music teacher at the college since its founding in 1904. She enjoyed a reputation as a superb theory teacher, and her presence and influence in the department was a stabilizing force in that program during troubled transitions for both it and the college. During that time she took additional studies at Catholic University and the universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Southern California.
Christensen studied piano with Amos Allen at CU and Lillian Steuber at USC. While in England, she studied piano with Ian Lake at the Royal College of Music, London. She also served for a number of years as a member of the Certification Board of the Maryland State Music Teachers Association. She was living in Silver Spring when she died on September 15, 2014, at age ninety.
Sources: Interviews with Betty A. Christensen, 25 September 2003, 23 September 2007, and materials and resume provided by her in 2003; Southwestern Union Record, 20 august 1947, 8: Carol Marie Longard, "A King's Gift," Columbia Union Visitor, 9 November 1972, 16; Obituary for Evalyn Christensen, Southwestern Union Record, 12 June 1980; Obituary for Betty Ann Christensen by The Washington Post as posted at the website for the Funeral Home, Parklawn Memorial Gardens.