For Mental Health Awareness Month 2023 we’re partnering with the Connecticut Historical Society and taking it way back every Thursday with #ThrowbackThursday to share a few stories of how people faced life’s challenges throughout history. 

“It is true that a great part of the suffering in this present war, as in all wars, must forever remain with the secrets of unwritten history.”  

Robert H. Kellogg 

Wethersfield, 1865 


Beatrix A. (Betty) Hamburg, MD ’48 (1923 – 2018), was a renowned researcher, advocate, and policy maker in the field of adolescent psychiatry, mental health, and violence prevention. She was the first African American admitted to Vassar College, and the first Black woman to earn a medical degree from the Yale Medical School In 1948. At the time, she was also the first Black medical student to be admitted to Yale in 37 years.   

She explained in an interview, “I was recruited to Vassar when they wanted to have an African American student.” By contrast, “it wasn’t a very big deal to be an African American at Yale, but it was much more of a challenge to be a woman there,” she mentioned. She went on to build a trailblazing career focusing on early adolescence, and violence prevention. She is also noted for her pioneering work on youth peer-to-peer counseling, 

She incorporated her insights into a school-based counseling program that proved to be an effective intervention for children, and for work in the field of conflict resolution. With essays such as “The epidemic of youth violence: effective solutions require new perspectives” (1995 Annual Report) and “Making winners out of losers: New models for creating decent futures for youth in the criminal justice system” (1996 Annual Report), Dr. Hamburg’s intellectual leadership set a pattern that still resonates today. 

Her success in the academic arena attracted the attention of the William T. Grant Foundation where she served as a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees for over two decades, including six years as President of the Foundation from 1992 to 1998, guiding the foundation’s work to support healthy lives and violence reduction among children. Among many firsts in her lifetime, Betty Hamburg was the first woman, and the first and only African American to serve as president of the Foundation. 

Afterward, she remained engaged in advocacy work. She was named the DeWitt Wallace Distinguished Scholar at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and served as director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 

Beatrix (Betty) McCleary-Hamburg passed away from Alzheimer’s disease on April 15 at the age of 94. Her legacy is continued in her daughter, Maraget A. Hamberg, M.D., who became the 21st Commissionor of Food and Drugs on May 18th, 2009, only the second woman to serve in the position.  

To learn more about Dr. Hamburg read the obituary in the Washington Post 


Be a part of MHC’s history of supporting Connecticut residents for over 100 years, set up a fundraising page or making a donation today!  

Stay in touch with us on social media @mentalhealthct and keep up with our blog posts so you don’t miss a #ThrowbackThursday in May! 

Learn more about the faces of resilience by checking out the virtual tour of the Connecticut Historical Society exhibit, “Common Struggle, Individual Experience: An Exhibition About Mental Health”   

Intro label to the exhibit:  

The people in this exhibition faced the challenges of mental health. Some left fragments of a story, like letters or diaries, that only hint at their personal struggles. Others are boldly sharing their story today. Some found help. Some found healing. Some struggled till the end. Some changed history.