In memoriam: Betty Reardon (1929-2023)

Betty A. Reardon, internationally celebrated as a founder of the field of peace education and feminist peace scholar, passed away on November 3, 2023. She was the co-founder of the Global Campaign for Peace Education.

The child of Julia Florence Reardon (Burke) and Michael Augustus Reardon, she was born on June 12, 1929 and brought up in Rye, New York where she attended Rye Grammar School and then Rye High School. She spent her adult life as a resident of New York City.  She held a doctorate in education from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master’s degree in history from New York University, and a B.A. in history from Wheaton College, Norton, MA. She is survived by nieces Noël Menadier, Christie Menadier, Coley Menadier-Fisher and husband Rick Fisher, great nephew Adam Fisher and wife Whitney Timmons, great nephew Grayson Fisher, nephew Mark Menadier and great nephew Burke Menadier and great niece Kalani Menadier, niece Dani Menadier Thorn and great nieces Sabrina Thorn and Savannah Thorn, and cousins Steven Ekholm, Carla Mohlenbrok Henry, and Ali Sheehey.

She began her teaching career at Rye Country Day School, and then in 1963 she began her work in peace education as Director of the Schools Program with the Institute of World Order. What intrigued and drove her was an interest in war, not as an isolated eruption in human affairs, but as a social system justified by particular ways of thinking. She had a hunch that not only the structures of society, but the structures of consciousness as well, could, and should be, transformed through a comprehensive education for and about peace. Betty Reardon’s life-long endeavor has been informed and shaped by this perspective and these formative experiences.

She held prominent roles in the establishment and work of key institutions that define the field of peace studies and peace education, including the founder and long-time director of the Peace Education Center and Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, the founder and director of the International Institute on Peace Education, the General Coordinator, of the Feminist Scholar Activist Network on Demilitarization, Coordinator International Network of Peace Education Centers, the founding Academic Coordinator of the Hague Appeal for Peace Global Campaign for Peace Education,  the Director of the Peacemaking in Education Program, United Ministries in Education, Executive Secretary of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction, the School Program Director, Institute for World Order, New York, NY, the Associate Director of Leadership and World Society (LAWS), and a founder of the Peace Education Commission of the International Peace Research Association.

Dr. Reardon also held a number of prestigious visiting professorships, including the Savage Chair, Distinguished Visiting professor of International Relations and Peace, University of Oregon, the A. Lindsay O’Connor Chair in American Institutions, Colgate University, Visiting Professor of Peace, Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Visiting Professor, Kanda University of International Studies, Chiba, Japan, Visiting Professor, Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan, Visiting Professor, Department of International Relations, Ritsumeikan Unviersity, Kyoto, Japan.

In addition, Dr. Reardon was an accomplished scholar of peace studies and peace education.  She published numerous articles, books, book chapters, and reports, and has presented scholarly papers at numerous scholarly meetings. Her essential works include:

  • Comprehensive Peace Education (Teachers College Press, 1988);
  • Educating for Global Responsibility (Teachers College Press, 1988);
  • Women and Peace: Feminist Visions of Global Security (State University of New York Press, 1993);
  • Educating for Human Dignity (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994);
  • Sexism and the War System (Syracuse University Press, 1996);
  • Tolerance: The Threshold of Peace (UNESCO,1998);
  • Passport to Dignity: The Human Rights of Women (PDHRE, 2001); and
  • Education for a Culture of Peace in a Gender Perspective (UNESCO, 2001).
  • The Gender Imperative: Human Security vs. State Security. (Routledge, 2010).
  • Betty A. Reardon: A Pioneer in Education for Peace and Human Rights. (Springer Press, 2015)
  • Betty A. Reardon: Key Texts in Gender and Peace. (Springer Press, 2015)

Her many prestigious awards include:

  • the Pomerance Award for contributions to disarmament efforts within the UN system,
  • Nomination and honorable mention for UNESCO Peace Education Prize by ICAE, IPRA, WCCI,
  • the American Association of University Women (AAUW) New York State Peace Award,
  • Golden Balloon Award for Peace Education from World Children’s Association (presented at the United Nations),
  • the 1986 Book of the Year Award from the American Journal of Nursing for Sexism and the War System,
  • the 1994 Peace Studies Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association,
  • the 2000 Jane Adams Peace Activist Award,
  • Distinguished Alumna Award from Teachers College Columbia University, 2004,
  • Volvo Heroes nomination 2006,
  • Nomination for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize (among 1000 women nominated as a group).
  • Nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize by the International Peace Bureau (Norway).
  • The 2010 Sean McBride Peace (International Peace Bureau).
  • The 2013 El-Hibri Peace Education Prize (The El-Hibri Foundation)

World War II, and then later, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the Feminist movement were formative in the development of her worldview. In the face of the horrors of world war, she believed, as early as the fifth grade, that there must be an alternative to war, and in the face of racism and sexism she pondered early on the limits and possibilities of justice.  In these formative experiences were the seeds of her fundamental approach to peace, as both the elimination of violence and the establishment of justice.  She chose to be a teacher, believing that education was the key to a peaceful and just world.

Betty Reardon was a tireless student, exponent, and advocate of peace, justice, and peace education. She mentored and inspired generations of educators, scholars, and activists through her teaching and scholarship.

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