Department News

Obituary – Betty Balcom

Betty Balcom, Gery Hoskin, Frank Zinni, James Domzalski. Steve Halperm amd Jim Twombly.

Betty is pictured here with (L-R) Gary Hoskin, Frank Zinni, James Domzalski (graduating senior), Steve Halpern, and Jim Twombly at a department graduation ceremony from the early 1990s.

The Department of Political Science lost a cherished member this past year. Betty J. Balcom, a long-serving Assistant to the Chair of the department, died on August 30, 2020 at 88 years of age. A resident of Lancaster, NY, Betty was predeceased by her husband Charles, and leaves behind a son, Glenn, and daughter Myra (Jerry), and two grandchildren, Kelly and Amy.

For many of her 30 years of service at UB (1967-1997) Betty’s office served as the nerve center of the department. She reflected on her early years at UB when corresponding with Claude Welch:

“I was thinking back to when I first started at UB at the Council for International Studies with Ms. Robinson in Hayes Hall. [I worked with Mavis in International Studies.] We moved around a lot back then but I remember in Hochstetter, now Wende I believe, we worked on a book that was referred to as “chicken bargaining” [This is likely a reference to the modern classic by Glenn Snyder and Paul Diesing, Conflict Among Nations: Bargaining, Decision Making, and System Structure in International Crises (1977 from Claude Welch). Frank Zagare has collected the working papers prepared for this book]. Is that what Frank Zagare is going to be working on? That unit used to do a lot of typing for grants under Dr. Moss and Dean Burke. [They served in International Studies.] That would have been in the late 60s. I think History and Political Science were still one? [The two split fall 1963.]” 

Betty described herself on being a ‘farm-girl’, rising early every morning to swim at the university pool before arriving at her office. Putting her political commitments into practice, she served as a poll worker at elections. She and Charles enjoyed many adventures travelling all over the globe (including an underwater excursion in a micro-submarine!).

Claude Welch, Betty Balcom, and Margaret Kasprzyk, enjoying an off-campus lunch during the summer of 2011. Photo by Munroe Eagles.

Claude Welch, Betty Balcom, and Margaret Kasprzyk, enjoying an off-campus lunch during the summer of 2011.

We missed her when she retired in 1997, but she kept in touch with us and we enjoyed hearing of her post-retirement adventures.  You can read about her post-UB life in her contribution to the very first issue of The Pulse, published in 2013. As a department, we are grateful to her many contributions to our collective life and for being a special part of the social glue that knits us into a supportive and enjoyable community.