Elizabeth Duncan Koontz


Honorary Degree (1974)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan


The youngest child of a high school principal and an elementary teacher, Elizabeth Duncan Koontz learned early what she wanted to do with her life. When she entered grade school, she was already helping her mother teach illiterates to read and write. Education was somewhat of a tradition in her family: her sister was Secretary-Treasurer of a local college at which her eldest brother was President, a second brother was a college instructor, and a third an elementary principal.

Mrs. Koontz was educated in the public schools of her native state, North Carolina, city of Salisbury, where she also received her undergraduate training in English and elementary education at Livingstone College. She was awarded the M.A. degree in Elementary Education from Atlanta University and did further graduate work at Columbia University, Indiana University, and North Carolina College, where she specialized in Special Education for slow learners.

Her participation in civic and educational interests has been long and rewarding. A life member of the National Education Association, she served as President of its largest department, the Association of Classroom Teachers, in 1965-66. She became President of NEA in 1968, after serving in all of its elective offices, and served until January, 1969, when she was appointed the first black Director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau by President Richard Nixon. She was also United States Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, counselor to the Secretary of Labor on women's programs and Deputy Assistant of Labor for Employment Standards. The professional career of Mrs. Koontz has covered a wide spectrum. She has taught at the elementary and secondary school levels, and has served as a member of the National Advisory Council on the Education of the Disadvantaged at the request of President Lyndon B. Johnson. She currently is serving as Assistant Secretary for Coordination of Nutrition Programs in the North Carolina Department of Human Resources.

Mrs. Koontz has held membership on such diverse bodies as the Family Service Council of North Carolina, the North Carolina Council on Human Relations, and the Education Committee of the National Urban League International Platform Association. She served on the North Carolina Governor's Commission on the Status of Women and as a consultant to the National Council of Administrative Women in Education Commission on the Status of Women. She also has served on the Advisory Council of the Women's Action Program in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Mrs. Koontz has been the recipient of numerous awards, citations for service, and honorary degrees, which number more than a dozen. They include the Doctor of Humane Letters Degree and the Distinguished Alumni Medallion for Achievement from her alma mater, Livingstone College, the Distinguished Teacher Award from the Civitan Club of Salisbury, and Doctor of Letters from Atlanta University.

In a world that is awakening to the important personal and professional contributions which women long have made to our society, it is especially important to recognize the long record of accomplishments attained by Elizabeth Duncan Koontz.