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GRACE LILLIAN BUTLER Professor emerita finds hope after battling cancer. BY FRANCINE PARKER


race Butler’s last day

teaching at the University of Houston campus was if not the most unforgettable day of her life then surely the most

agonizing. On that day in April of 1999, Butler abruptly departed from UH when an “insidious” disease — colon cancer — threatened her life. Following a two-year sick leave, Butler retired, receiving the professor emerita title from the College of Education. Butler’s departure was far different from the optimism and excitement of her first days at UH in 1989. She had accepted the new position of associate vice provost for faculty affairs and was tasked to serve as a liaison between the provost and faculty and to assist in recruiting minority faculty members. “The position enabled me to use the skills and experience that I had gained in academe through the years, and I thought it would be


challenging,” Butler said. “I also recall that there was the desire for UH to become more diverse.” Butler’s arrival came at a time marked by substantial growth at the University. The Legislature had established the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. Enrollment in the Honors College had increased ten-fold to more than 1,000 students. For Butler, UH offered a unique opportunity in a city unlike the one from which she had relocated — College Station. There, she worked at Texas A&M University, where she was, for a time, one of two African-American professors. She also served in administrative positions and was instrumental in Texas A&M’s effort to diversify its faculty. At UH, Butler faced some resistance from faculty members accustomed to “having direct contact with the provost.” She continued, though, to develop a rapport with faculty and created an internship program for professors,

particularly women and minorities, interested in transitioning into careers as administrators. One of those participants was professor James Anderson, who retired from the University of Houston several years ago. Butler also immersed herself into the campus community and scholarly activities. She chaired the promotion and tenure, and the Esther Farfel award committees and participated in many others. And, over the years, Butler wrote numerous monographs, book chapters and articles, including “Race, Racial Stratification and Education: A response” and “Legal and Policy Issues in Higher Education.” She also served on the editorial boards of such organizations as the National Forum for Educational Administration and Supervision.

In 1996, Butler returned to the

classroom and taught the Cultural History of Education in America. “The class was fascinating,” Butler said. “One of the projects

Profile for uhmagazine

University of Houston Magazine Spring 2016  

University of Houston Magazine Spring 2016