Behind the building: George Beto Criminal Justice Center

The Texas State University System Board of Regents named the George John Beto Criminal Justice Center in 1991 for George Beto, a nationally recognized penologist, former director of the Texas Department of Corrections and former SHSU professor.Beto was born in Hysham, Mont., on Jan. 19, 1916, to Margaret Witsma and Louis Beto, a Lutheran minister. Three years later, the family moved to Lena, Ill., where he lived until he was 14. There he completed a six-year college preparatory curriculum in five years.From 1935 to 1937, Beto studied at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Beto then transferred to Valparaiso University and received a bachelor of arts. He returned to the seminary and completed his theological studies in 1939. In the same year, Beto taught history at Concordia Lutheran College in Austin, a position he held until 1959. According to the “Handbook of Texas”, when Beto resigned he had earned a master of arts degree in medieval history, completed a doctorate in educational administration and was awarded a doctorate of divinity degree. “There is also a building in Concordia University named after him,” said Dan Beto, Beto’s son. His career with criminal justice began in 1953, when he was appointed to the Texas Prison Board, now named the Texas Board of Corrections. In 1959, Beto resigned from this position. He became the director and chief of chaplains for the Texas Department of Corrections on March 1, 1962, a position he held for10 years. In 1963, Beto persuaded the Board of Corrections to convert the Harlem Farm into an eight-week program of counseling and education for state prisoners. The inmates would participate in this program prior to their release.Beto became a professor at SHSU in 1972. He is responsible for expanding the college education programs at prisons and developing the SHSU criminology program for research and training. He retired in 1991.Dan Beto said the criminal justice building was renamed in late 1991, and the ceremony took place in 1992 after his father’s death.

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