Madeline ‘Betty’ Blankenship Remembered
When recalling her long career as the Dean’s Assistant at UM School of Law, Betty Blankenship often said she “came with the building” referring to the law building which was under construction when she was hired in 1959. She would serve the Law School as Dean’s Assistant for 23 years until her retirement in 1982. At retirement, she told of having been involved in 1959 in selecting interior decoration and furnishing of the then-new building and of once being accidentally locked in the building with no phones when the workmen left for the day.
With the assistance of a single secretary, Betty was in charge of all aspects of administration of UMSL including assisting the dean, serving the six full-time faculty, acting as registrar, handling recruiting, scholarships, students loans, all publications, alumni records, mailing lists, bar admission, grades, typing of exams, placements, supplies and equipment (theromofax machines and typewriters).
Betty attended Stanford University for a couple years until interrupted by World War II and a family move to Atlanta. She married WWII veteran “Buck” Blankenship who subsequently died of a war related illness which thrust Betty into the workplace to support their daughter. She started at UM in 1954 as Assistant to the Chair of the History Department and later as Assistant to the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. She accepted Dean Robert Sullivan’s invitation to be his assistant at the Law School in 1959 and served under Sullivan and, later, Dean Jack Mudd until retirement. Lawyers who knew her as students revere her as the highly competent, formal, and no-nonsense administrator who some found to be intimidating.
She recalled at retirement that, when she started, the law school was much more formal and students wore suits and ties. She said she was involved with law students “cradle to grave” and found her time at UMSL “delightful.” She maintained her relationship with the law school and her community engagement in her later years and will be greatly missed. Betty passed away in Missoula on December 23, 2014. Contributions to the Law School in Betty’s memory may be made through checks to UM Foundation.