Dr. Bettie Sue Siler Masters was born June 13, 1937 in Lexington, Virginia. In high school, she won a Westinghouse Science Talent Search Competition that allowed her to secure a science scholarship to Roanoke College. She graduated from Roanoke in 1959 with a B.S. in Chemistry. She was salutatorian of her class, and earned the Annie Terrell Bushnell Prize. Dr. Masters continued her education at Duke University, where she received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1963.
At Roanoke, Masters earned many awards, including Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities and outstanding freshman in 1955-1956. She was a member of the Phi Society and co-editor with Barbara Healy Seed of the Rawenoch in 1958. She was secretary and treasurer of the student government, and was on the honor council for three years. Masters earned the Cardinal Key, Roanoke’s highest academic honor for female students, each year from 1957 to 1959 and later was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa chapter upon its establishment at the college.
Dr. Masters began her career with the American Cancer Society, where she worked on a Postdoctoral Fellowship through Duke University. She went on to work on her Advanced Research Fellowship with the American Heart Association, also at Duke University. Masters worked as an associate in Biochemistry at Duke for one year, before an appointment as an assistant professor and then associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, a position she held for fourteen years. Masters served as a professor of biochemistry, research professor of surgery, and director of biochemical burn research at the Dallas medical center. In 1982, Masters became professor and chair of the biochemistry department at the Medical College of Wisconsin, the first woman chair in the school's history. She was then recruited to the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio as the first Robert A. Welch Distinguished Professor in Chemistry in 1990.
Masters was awarded research grants by the National Institutes of Health from 1971-2016 for a total of over $17,000,000. She was awarded the American Heart Association's Established Investigatorship for five years, and was a visiting professor for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science in 1978. She was a member of the pharmacology-toxicology program research review committee of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was also on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry for 10 years. In 1983, Masters received the Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Roanoke College.
Masters received the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Excellence in Science Award in 1992 and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics Bernard B. Brodie Award in 2000. Masters served on the advisory committee to the Director of the NIH from 2001 to 2004. She was president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from 2002 to 2004 and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies) in 1996 and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001.
Dr. Bettie Sue Siler Masters received the Roanoke College Medal in 1973 for her distinguished service to her community and her profession. Her drive and amazing work ethic was the foundation for a prolific and much-decorated career. Bettie Sue and her husband, Robert Sherman Masters (’54), raised two children together: Diane Elizabeth Masters and Deborah Ann Masters Camitta (’87).
Dr. Bettie S. Masters received the Roanoke College Medal in 1973.