Dr. Bertha Pendleton grew up in Gadsden, Alabama during a time when African Americans were denied the resources enjoyed by others to be successful and live full lives as citizens of the United States. As a young girl, Bertha proved herself to be smart, involved, resourceful and determined. When the segregated library did not have the information she needed, she requested and was given permission to utilize the public library after closing hours to access their extensive reference materials. She was the valedictorian of her high school graduation class and attended Knoxville College in Tennessee graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She has a Master’s degree from United States International University (USIU) and an EdD from the University of San Diego. Bertha was born and spent the first five years of her life in Troy, Alabama, the same community where her cousin, Congressman John Lewis would later grow up. Her elementary and high school education was spent in Gadsen, Alabama. From these humble beginnings, she would grow up and eventually become the Superintendent of the eighth largest school district in the country; San Diego Unified School District (1993 – 1998).
Dr. Pendleton spent her early career endeavors as a cartographic engineer before becoming a third grade teacher. She was recruited to San Diego as a middle school math teacher when she and her husband and family moved to San Diego. Her success in the classroom soon led her to become an administrator, filling the roles of counselor, Vice Principal, Principal, District Coordinator, Assistant Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent and finally Superintendent. She was the first female and the first African American selected as the Superintendent of the SDUSD. During her tenure 14 schools were built in overcrowded urban areas and “zero tolerance towards violence” policies were instituted throughout the district. These policies and others promoted equity in education which influenced state education trends.
Bertha also has the distinction of having been a president of Epsilon Xi Omega, the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. for two terms, 1981 and 1984. Her work in the community was often a part of the motto of her beloved sorority, “Service to All Mankind”. She received recognition from many community organizations for her volunteer spirit and tireless efforts in community service. She retired in 1999 and currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with her family.