Long-Serving TCC Mathematics Faculty Member Joe Betz Passes

 May 13, 2019

Long-Serving TCC Mathematics Faculty Member Joe Betz Passes
 Mathematics instructor Joe Betz helps students with a math problem. Photo courtesy of TCC Archive. 

TCC is saddened today by news of the passing of Joe Betz, who came to TCC in 1967 and taught mathematics until his retirement in 1990. After retirement, he continued to teach part time until 2002, making him one of the longest-serving faculty members at TCC. We extend our sympathies and condolences to Betz’s family.

Betz obtained his B.E. from Seattle University in 1951, and his M.A.T. from Washington State University in 1963. He taught for nine years at Seattle’s Garfield High School and did some part-time teaching at the University of Washington and Shoreline Junior College before joining the mathematics department at TCC in 1967.

At TCC, Betz was known for being an engaged, approachable teacher, an early advocate for student access to computer-based learning, a colleague who was always looking for ways to break down barriers between disciplines and departments, and an enthusiastic supporter of Titan Athletics. At least a half-dozen faculty members joined forces to nominate him for a Faculty Excellence Award before his retirement in 1990 – including Bob Thaden, the faculty member for whom the award is now named.

“Joe is the kind of person that an instructor should aspire to be,” wrote Thaden in his nomination. “He is respected in his field; participates in and is supportive of college activities; has the respect of his students, his peers, and the administration; and is a friend to anyone in need.”

Frank Weihs’ nomination focuses on the ways Betz found to share his love for mathematics not only with the students, but with his fellow faculty members.

“Joe Betz has done outstanding work in crossing professional boundaries to bring home to humanities faculty the importance and appeal of mathematics. Specifically, his presentations of the operation and significance of the Golden Section, reflecting the Fibonacci numbers, have been very effective in reminding non-mathematicians of the interrelationships of mathematics and the arts,” wrote Weihs.

Betz was just as interested in learning from his fellow instructors about their fields. In a joint nomination, John and Debbie Kinerk wrote that “Joe has done much to create cohesion among the faculty through his openness to disciplines other than his own.”

Weihs noted that Betz also shared his love of interdisciplinary learning with students. He designed and taught Math 107, a course which Weihs described as “effective in showing the appeal and relevance of mathematics to non-science majors.”

Current mathematics instructor Anne Hafer agrees.

“Joe’s innovation in introducing Math 107 into the math curriculum was an important contribution to TCC students and the culture of the department. The focus on that course was applications of math in the real world including management science and art, providing students a much broader picture of what math is than a traditional algebra-based curriculum does. Although such courses are more common now, 30+ years ago they were not at all common!”

Fellow mathematics instructor Karen Clark praised Betz’s effectiveness as a teacher.

“A student will not be ignored in a Betz class,” she wrote in her nomination. “Non-participation is not accepted.”

John and Debbie Kinerk agreed: “Students speak about him in superlatives and regularly come to see him in his office.”

Betz also carried his enthusiasm to the Athletic department, helping to organize and judge the Bridge Run, which started in the early 1980s and was held as a Titan Athletics fundraiser for several years.

“Joe Betz was a big man with an even bigger heart,” said Hafer. “He had a twinkle in his eye, a ready laugh, and great enthusiasm for both teaching and mathematics.”

Memorial Service

A memorial service for Joe Betz will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 23 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 7112 S 12th St, Tacoma, WA 98465.

Image of campus commons

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