Betty Jean Krieger Martin-McPeck

1925 - 2020  

Betty Martin, a soprano and flutist, taught music in several Seventh-day Adventist schools, the University of Maryland, and assisted in administering an academic program at an Adventist college. She completed a doctorate in music and was also certified to teach in five other areas in addition to music.

Betty was born and raised on a farm near Grove City, Ohio, one of three children and the oldest child and only daughter of Maud May Helwagen and Charles Frederick Krieger. Her mother sang and played piano and organ, and her father played violin.

Her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor when Betty was six and would be an invalid until her death eleven years later. Even though she was unable to teach her daughter piano, she bought her books, and Betty taught herself to play. When she later took lessons, she had progressed to the point of where her teacher started her in the Thompson piano method grade three book.

She had a natural aptitude in music and taught herself violin well enough to be able to play in the school orchestra. Betty developed her sightreading ability so that by the time she was a teenager singing hymns in church, she would sing each new verse in a different part, starting with the soprano and progressing through alto, tenor and bass. When a member of the congregation noticed this, she invited her to sing solos in church. Although she grew up as a Lutheran, she became a Seventh-day Adventist at age nineteen.

When she graduated from high school in 1943 as the valedictorian of her class, she was offered a scholarship to Capital University, but her father prevented her from going to college, feeling that it was not proper for a girl to get an education. After Betty married Weldon Dale Martin in 1946 and they had had two sons, Alan Paul and Loren Dale, she decided that she would delay going to college until her sons were in school.

The Martins lived in Ohio for a year after they married and then moved to Collegdale, Tennessee, where he completed a degree at Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University, in 1951. They returned to Ohio, where he worked for four years assisting with computer services associated with the Electric Power Board of Columbus, Ohio.

During this time, Betty, eager to go to college, approached the Ohio SDA educational secretary, indicating an interest in going to Columbia Union College through a plan that was being offered at that time:

I went to the educational secretary and asked him for a scholarship that was available at that time by which anyone who wanted to take an elementary education major could go to school for a year then teach a year with all expenses paid until a degree was completed. He ridiculed me, laughed at me, and walked off laughing. That angered me and I said, "Well then, I won't go to Columbia Union College. We'll go back to Southern."

In 1956, they returned to SMC, Dale to take classes to become a teacher and she to enroll as an elementary education major. Shortly after arriving there, while singing hymns during a meeting, she did her customary part singing as a hymn progressed. At the end of the hymn, a distinguished looking gentleman, Adrian R.M. Lauritzen, chair of the Division of Fine Arts, who had been in the pew in front of hers, turned to find out who she was and told her she should be majoring in music. She protested that she really didn't know that much about music and had not had training, but he insisted and then requested that the school register her as a music major.

In spite of her reservations, she had taught herself basic theory while earlier studying on her own and within a short time was a sought-after tutor by fellow students in music theory. She had her first voice lessons under Evelyn Lauritzen, and when the Lauritzens left at the end of Betty's first year, she studied voice under Dorothy Ackerman for the next three years.

In those years between high school and entering college, she had taught herself enough flute so that arrangements were made for her to study the instrument at the University of Chattanooga. She would eventually learn to play all of the instruments except the bassoon.

When she completed her music degree in1960, the Martins accepted positions at Avon Park Junior Academy in Florida, he as principal and teacher and she as the teacher of all subjects in grades nine and ten and music and art for all grades. Three years later they moved to Mt. Aetna Academy in Maryland, where they taught until 1967, when the school closed.

Betty completed a master's degree at Andrews University in 1967. After MAA closed, she taught at Spencerville Junior Academy for two years. At the end of that time, she decided to take some classes on a casual basis at the University of Maryland, which was located near where they lived. When she went to the school for advisement, her advisor had other ideas:

When I went to see my assigned advisor, he told me that I needed to register as a doctoral student in music. I said, "What? I don't want to take a doctorate, I want to take some classes just for fun." He insisted and I responded, "No, No, I don't want to have worry about completing some program." He persisted and signed me into that program. He then told me I had to have doctoral certification in three languages and signed me up for a German class and a History of Opera class for that summer. I had never had German and suddenly found myself competing with students who had already had two years of college German. I really didn't expect to pass the class, but spent hours studying and translating and passed with a respectable grade.

Once it became known that she was pursuing a doctorate, she encountered resistance from an unexpected source:

The educational superintendent for the Potomac Conference told me that if I persisted in taking a doctorate, I would never work again in the Adventist church. He also said no woman who has a doctorate would ever work under him. After I finished my degree, my pastor approached him, inquiring about the denominational policy that anyone who pursued graduate work was entitled to release time for that purpose. He said no, it didn't apply for teachers.

Martin taught at another Adventist school for a year and then at the University of Maryland for four years as she completed her degree by taking a heavy schedule of summer and evening classes. While teaching at UM, she also taught part-time at the Dupont Park Adventist School in Washington, D.C., where she taught classes and developed a band program. She completed her doctorate at UM in 1974.

During this time she was in an accident and severely injured her spine. Even though she was in pain, she continued to teach as much as she could until surgery, and the recuperation time it required, led to a short leave. She was surprised to be approached in 1976 about helping administer the nursing program at Columbia Union College. Her response was, "No, no, what qualifications do I have for that job?" She finally consented and assisted Frances Fickess, chair of the program, in caring for administrative detail for one year.

Following completion of her doctorate, Betty pursued certification to teach in several subjects by taking correspondence classes through the University of Wisconsin. Through this work and previous study she became certified to teach in six subjects, including English, biology, mathematics, history, Bible, and music.

In 1977, the Martins accepted positions at Greater Pittsburgh Junior Academy in Pennsylvania, where they taught for two years before accepting positions at Richmond Junior Academy in Virginia. Four years later, they moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where they taught for four more years before retiring. In all three schools, he served as principal and taught classes, and she taught subjects in the upper classes as well as music and, as needed, art.

They retired in 1987 and moved to Deer Lodge, Tennessee, where they were living when Dale died tragically in 1995.

In 2001, Martin was approached about teaching music for a year at Midland Adventist Academy in Kansas. Although initially she was adamant in her refusal to even consider the request, she eventually relented. She later talked about the circumstances and the experience:

Just before the start of the school year, my nephew called me and wanted to know if I was interested in teaching music for a year at this academy in Kansas. I immediately responded "No, No, not at all." Although he persisted, I repeated my refusal to even consider it. He called back again and even though I repeated my earlier refusal, he asked if they would fly me out to look at the situation, would I be willing to do that. I consented and after seeing the facilities and visiting with the principal, all the while expressing my disinterest, I finally decided to do it. It went surprisingly well and turned out to be a busy, but good experience.

In 2002, she married Donald McPeck, a retired widower and they resided in Crossville, Tennessee until his death.  She was living in Montrose, Colorado, when she died on January 27, 2020, at age 94.


Sources: Interviews with Betty Martin-McPeck, April 2011; Columbia Union Visitor, 13 June 1963, 7; 5 April 1979, 5; Southern Tidings, December 1990, 7.