Bertina Hildreth Combes, Vice Provost for Faculty Success and Professor of Special Education has passed away

Bertina Hildreth Combes, 62, vice provost for faculty success and professor of special education who had worked at UNT since 1989, has passed away Feb. 19 of complications due to COVID-19. She also had served as coordinator of special education programs and as associate and interim dean of the College of Education.

"Bertina will be remembered as an exemplary educator and mentor who was devoted to her faith and believed in the power of education to transform lives," UNT President Neal Smatresk wrote in a statement Sunday. "Having served in numerous roles since she arrived at UNT in 1989, the one closest to Bertina’s heart was likely her role as a professor of special education in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology. Her many leadership positions through the years included serving as coordinator of special education programs and as associate and interim dean of the college."

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Oral Roberts University, she worked as an elementary school teacher specializing in learning and intellectual disabilities and emotional and behavior disorders while earning a master’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin and served as an assistant professor at Texas Tech University before joining the UNT faculty.

In UNT’s Department of Educational Psychology, she focused on preparing professional educators to meet the needs of diverse students receiving special education services, including those with learning disabilities. She was the director for Project TELL: Training Effective Leaders for High-Needs Schools Through Local Partnerships, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help train future leaders of special education programs.

Her honors at UNT included being named a Student Association Honors Professor and a Mortar Board Top Prof, as well as receiving the first Ulys and Vera Knight Faculty Mentor Award and a President’s Council Teaching Award. She also was honored for her leadership in diversity at UNT. She was active in numerous professional organizations through the years, including the International Council for Learning Disabilities.  

Students remember her as an understanding mentor who shaped their interest in the field of special education and encouraged them to turn possibilities into plans. She was a deeply religious person who also believed in the power of education to transform lives. The child of college educators, she created the Drs. Eddie and Gladys Hildreth Scholarship at UNT, named for her parents. This scholarship is now endowed because of her dedication and commitment to it.

To honor her legacy as an educator, a scholarship has been created in her name. Memorials to the Bertina H. Combes Scholarship fund may be made through University Advancement, 1155 Union Circle #311250, Denton, TX 76203-5017. For more information about the scholarship, contact Shelly Lane, senior director of development in the College of Education, at Shelly.Lane@unt.edu or 940-891-6860.

The UNT community will celebrate Bertina's life at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, in a virtual recognition. The link will be shared closer to the event.