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Crabtree, Beverly J.

Published onJul 30, 2021
Crabtree, Beverly J.

(June 22, 1937-December 7, 2016)

Quick Facts

Crabtree became Dean of the newly named College of Family and Consumer Sciences, where she expanded on the 125 years of teaching from the College of Home Economics.


Beverly J. Crabtree, Dean, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, 1987-1997, 1997 by Carol Prusa (American, b. 1956). Oil on Masonite. Gift of the Alumni Association, College of Family and Consumer Sciences. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U98.4

Beverly J. Crabtree was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, and graduated from Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri in 1955. From a very young age, growing up on the family farm and actively involved in 4-H club work, Beverly displayed characteristics of becoming a dynamic and articulate educator and leader.

Beverly J. (Deles Dernier) Crabtree became the Dean of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University (ISU) in July 1987. With the drive and savvy of a “corporate president,” Crabtree rolled up her sleeves to embark on her vision to build upon a solid foundation of over 125 years and bring the college to the next level of excellence. She challenged faculty, staff, students and alumni to boost academic, scientific, administrative and legislative support for the college.

Crabtree was the dean at Oklahoma State University (OSU) prior to coming to ISU, and said the only other dean position in the country that could entice her away from OSU was the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University. Crabtree received her PhD in home economics education from ISU in 1965.

Dean Beverly Crabtree succeeded Dean Ruth Deacon. After arriving at Iowa State, she often referred to college events and programs as A.D. (After Deacon) and/or B.C. (Before Crabtree). Dean Crabtree often signed memos using her initials and was affectionately referred to as “B.C.” by her office staff.

Crabtree’s early challenge as dean was to support the new name of the college – from the College of Home Economics to the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. She emphasized to “older” alumni that the college’s mission – advancing the well-being of family and consumers across the life span – would remain intact.

Her goal for the college became focused: Top-of-mind awareness. “Today we must be more assertive. We need to tell our successes,” said Crabtree. Working with businesses was her strength. In 1993, she and the college advisory committee instituted a corporate leadership program to connect the college with business and industry. Her philosophy was the college serves as a breeding ground for ideas, to develop social and human capital and impact immediate economics needs. She spear-headed the 125th birthday of the College with a yearlong celebration in 1996.

After receiving and defining a $1.4 million bequest from Dean Emeritus Helen LeBaron Hilton, under Crabtree’s leadership, the college created its first endowed chair in 1995. As the largest, fully-funded endowed faculty chair at ISU, Crabtree positioned the college to annually seek an individual who could project an impact in a particular area. Crabtree’s vision was to develop a chair which allowed flexibility to change focus areas.

With the first Hilton Endowed Chair, Dr. Crabtree dared to touch the political hot button of gambling. They worked with faculty to define a comprehensive program which gained national attention from law makers and community advocates. She commissioned a statewide poll on gambling and its effect on the family. The forum and other initiatives provided research based information on the social negatives and economic impacts of gambling on families.

One of Crabtree’s greatest strengths was in the area of private fund raising. She worked diligently to raise more than $5 million for the Palmer Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Building, which opened in 1997. According to Crabtree, “to my knowledge, no other academic building (Palmer HDFS building) on campus has ever begun construction with as much private support and as much total funding in hand.” The Palmer building and focus on the early childhood education program discontinued the debate about restricting young children’s access to ISU’s campus. Crabtree pushed to complete the $8.4 million Human Nutritional Sciences Building as a hub for research. She was instrumental in raising private alumni support to restore the Christian Petersen Marriage Ring sculpture, located in the foyer of MacKay Hall, and cast a new cement likeness for the pool on the south side of MacKay Hall.

Crabtree tackled other funding issues. She was forced to downsize, cutting budgets, programs and staff to effect a bottom line consistent with resources. Realizing that research and development held the key to maintaining excellence, she led the effort to boost research grants from $587,000 to $10 million in ten years.

Dean Crabtree was especially enthusiastic about making strides in programming, and worked to increase the college’s agility. She emphasized instruction, research and outreach. Crabtree helped develop The Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA), an academic alliance that offers fully-online graduate and undergraduate coursework and program options in high demand professional fields.

Seeking to help students become more involved in the college, Crabtree developed the FACES program, Family and Consumer Sciences student ambassadors. She also was committed to bringing the best and brightest students to the college, including increasing scholarship support from $60,000 to more than $266,000.

Dean Crabtree was an eloquent and charismatic speaker. Her speeches often started this way, “The Family and Consumer Sciences profession focuses on empowering individuals, strengthening families and enabling communities. With an integrative, synergistic, holistic focus the FCS profession addresses basic human needs and persistent and emerging societal issues relevant to the well-being of individuals, families, consumers and communities.”

Never one to seek attention, Crabtree always credited faculty, staff, students and alumni for making a difference in people’s lives. One of her famous statements was, “The list of achievements of our alumni read like a Who’s Who.” She believed alumni expected and deserved the college to continue to focus on excellence, and address the future with vision. Crabtree served as the senior dean at Iowa State University for six years.

Dr. Beverly Crabtree received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1959 and 1962. She began her career as a high school home economics teacher in southwest Missouri. In 1964 she became a faculty member at Michigan State University. In 1967 she became the chair of the home economics education department at the University of Missouri-Columbia and later served as the associate dean of Extension. In 1975 Crabtree was named dean of the College of Home Economics at Oklahoma State University, a position she held for twelve years.

Service to professional and community organizations was critical to Crabtree’s career. She served as president of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and on several United State Department of Agriculture committees and councils. She was also involved in leadership positions with numerous national, regional and local civic boards.

Awards included: Ames Chamber of Commerce “Woman of the Year” 1991; American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences Distinguished Service Award 1992; VEISHEA Professor of the Year 1994; Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics, Strong-Minded Woman Award 1997; and ISU Order of the Knoll Cardinal and Gold award 2002.

To quote Dean Beverly Crabtree, “I would like to think in 33 years of higher education I have encouraged others to think higher. My sincere hope is that, during my career, I have served as a mentor and role model.” That she did.

Beverly often credited her involvement in 4-H as the beginning of her leadership development experience, providing tremendous opportunities to gain valuable competencies in working with people and facilitating groups. Her sheep project spanned her ten year 4-H career and helped finance her college education.

Perhaps her only love and dedication that equaled or exceeded her educational and leadership accomplishments were those with her family. Beverly married Dr. R. Jewell Crabtree (1964, MS, agronomy) on June 1, 1958, and they have two children: Greg Crabtree and Karen Crabtree Kunkel (1992, BS, family resource management).

Dean Crabtree passed away peacefully on December 7, 2016 in Springfield, MO after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She is interred in Nevada, Iowa.

Selected Sources

Beverly J. Crabtree Papers, RS 12/1/17, University Archives, Special Collections, Iowa State University Library, Ames, Iowa.

“Setting the Stage for the Year 2000” by Joanne Semour Kuster, VISIONS magazine, Spring 1997

“Leaders in Family and Consumer Sciences” by Bonnie Bruan and Sue Williams, published by Kappa Omicron Nu, 2016.


About the Authors
Contributors: Dynette Mosher, College of Human Sciences, and Robert L. Basham, Director of Development, 1989-1998, College of Family and Consumer Sciences

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