The Florida State University’s Department of Art Education is saddened to announce the passing of Professor Betty Jo Troeger, Ph.D., ATR-BC. Betty Jo served as faculty of the Florida State University’s Department of Art Education from 1980 to 2003. She was crucial in establishing the graduate-level Art Therapy Program at Florida State University. We celebrate all her contributions to Florida State University, the community, and the art education and therapy fields.
Betty Jo Troeger was a pioneer in the field of art therapy and education. She touched many as a creative leader, educator, and art therapist. Among her many contributions and interests was her exploration into the artwork of children with special needs and educational program development for teachers in the arts. Betty Jo authored journal articles and contributed to books in the field. Her research explored the multifaceted nature of human and artistic development, the implementation of theoretical approaches to understanding children’s artwork, the development of educational models for teaching art history and aesthetics, and the development of arts-based assessment tools for screening children in Individualized Education Programs.
Her interest in working with children with special needs was catalyzed during her time leading art programs at Cradle Beach Camp, a sanctuary for children with cognitive and physical disabilities. After working at Cradle Beach, she earned her MS from Buffalo State University, SUNY. Betty Jo continued teaching children at Sharpe Health School, a special education school in Washington, DC. While working at Sharpe, she earned her Ph.D. in Art Therapy from the University of North Texas.
In 1980, Betty Jo relocated to Tallahassee and joined the Florida State University Art Education department. When Betty Jo joined the department, Dr. Frances Anderson was working with Dr. Jessie Lovano-Kerr at the FSU art ed department for the semester. She and Betty Jo discussed teaching art therapy as an extension of Betty Jo’s experiences with children with special needs. “Betty Jo was gracious, brilliant, and always willing to help students. One of her special traits was to see both the immediate issues and how these issues factor into larger contexts,” said Dr. Anderson, one of the founders and honorary lifetime member of the American Art Therapy Association and benefactor of The Frances E. Anderson Scholarship. “She was “unique au monde” and always “took the higher road” in any conflict or issue.”
Betty Jo played a central role in developing and launching the graduate-level Art Therapy Program at Florida State University. With support from the then chairperson, Dr. Sally Mc Rorie, and the FSU Center for Program Development, Betty Jo used the existing courses to offer individuals working towards an MS in art education the opportunity to specialize in art therapy. “Dr. Betty Jo Troeger was a force to be reckoned with. She was fiercely devoted to her students in Art Therapy and worked tirelessly to provide them opportunities for professional preparation both in and out of the classroom,” said Dr. Sally Mc Rorie. When this 3-summer program became successful, and after a faculty line opened in 1998, Betty Jo lobbied for the line to be filled with an art therapy educator. Dr. Mc Rorie agreed, and the first art therapy educator was selected to begin working towards the MS in Art Therapy degree that exists today. “Betty Jo’s passion for this new specialization in the department has now grown into one of the significant art therapy graduate degree programs at a public university in the United States today,” said Dr. Marcia Rosal, the former director of the FSU Art Therapy Program.
During her 23 years at Florida State University, Betty Jo touched colleagues, friends, and students alike. “Betty Jo was kind, encouraging, and opened my eyes to the importance of differentiating instruction to meet the needs of all students. She was ahead of her time and a true leader in the field” said a former student of Betty Jo’s and current Faculty of the Florida State University’s Department of Art Education, Jeff Broome. “I hope one day to come close to living up to her legacy in art education.”
While teaching the next generations of art therapists, Betty Jo served in many leadership capacities for professional art therapy organizations, including Standards Chair for the Art Therapy Credentials Board, President of the Art Therapy Association of Florida, and President of the Board of Very Special Arts Florida, which provides arts, education, and cultural opportunities for and by individuals with special needs. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Art Education Association in recognition of her significant contributions to the field of Art Education.
Betty Jo retired in 2003 and relocated back to Texas. However, her passion for art therapy and education continued to inspire her. She created an art program at Grace Presbyterian Village, a senior care community in Dallas, Texas, where she provided art therapy to residents in the community and hosted open studio sessions weekly.
Betty Jo was a woman of great compassion, strength, intellect, exuberant joy, strength, and love. She cared deeply for the students who passed through her life and offered excellent guidance, care, and support. Her memory will always be an inspiration.