The Legacy of Thelma Becker (1926-2015)

2015-02-13

The School Nutrition Association sorrowfully announces the passing of SNA Past President Thelma Becker on February 8, 2015, in Harleysville, Pa. Becker led SNA—then the American School Food Service Association (ASFSA)—as president from 1986 to 1987, representing the state of Pennsylvania, where she was the foodservice director for Souderton (Pa.) Area School District for nearly 20 years. She concluded her year as president by presiding over the 1987 Annual National Conference in Salt Lake City.

“Thelma was such a likable and approachable person,” says Karen Johnson, SNS, 2004-05 SNA president, with fondness. “She always had time to talk with people and was always smiling. She was a great thinker and her passion for child nutrition was very apparent … She truly was a school nutrition professional.”

Becker’s leadership saw the Association through unique challenges and great triumph. Whether the Reagan administration’s run at cutting deeply into the funding for child nutrition programs or the decline of the Association’s major education and business networking relationships, Thelma Becker was always ready to respond, immediately and firm—and always with professionalism.

“She had many challenging issues to address. She handled each of these challenges with skill and diplomacy,” reflects SNA Past President Josephine Martin, PhD. “Thelma was a strategic thinker … who was skilled at looking at all sides of the issue, considering potential value and unexpected consequences before making a decision.”

Becker aimed to infuse new life into the Association’s networking efforts with allied associations. She understood the importance of partnerships and wanted the Association to thrive from the kind of support that a team provides. “This networking meeting has been one of my priority goals,” expressed Becker after the 1987 Industry Seminar meeting, which included representation from the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators and the Association of School Business Officials International. “We all have to be innovative, progressive and ready to change with the times, to listen and work as a team. By sitting down together as educators and networking to become a team, we can make a difference.”

Additionally, along with Jane Wynn and Shirley Watkins, Becker played an integral role in securing funding for the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). “I felt very strongly about education and training and something in the higher educational field that could support those people that were in schools, very busy doing the day-to-day business, and that this would be an area for the Institute, where they could come and learn, or seek information that they could use in their programs,” Becker said in a 2006 interview posted on the NFSMI website.

Wynn, who served as SNA vice president during Becker’s term as president, remembers the strong friendship between the two. “All of us have had a person, or persons, in our lives who have added so much love and joy to each day. Thelma Becker was all of that, and more, to me,” she says. “Thelma and I continued to share a very special bond from those days until her recent passing. My life is already diminished by her absence. I am so grateful for these years we have shared, and will be forever thankful for ASFSA opportunities that made it all possible.”

A service will be held Saturday, February 21, 2015, in Hilltown, Pa. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 132, Hilltown, PA 18927.

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