Goodbye, dear friend, Betty Horner

Elizabeth Horner, 1916-2009, Myra M. Sampson emerita professor of Biological Sciences

Elizabeth Horner, 1916-2009, Myra M. Sampson emerita professor of Biological Sciences

It is with much sadness we say goodbye to our dear friend Betty Horner, who died on April 29, 2009.  I met Betty during one of my first weeks at Smith.  She came over to introduce herself, and to drop off some items from her office.

Betty came to Smith College in 1938, as a young scientist from Douglass College in New Jersey, pursuing the master’s program while working in the laboratories at Burton Hall.  She later received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1948.  Betty always joked that she came to Smith ‘along with the 1938 Hurricane!’  One of her many contributions to the College Archives collection includes slides of that event (among other things).

Betty spent her entire academic career at Smith, sharing her absolute love of science and inquiry with many a generation of young women.  She persevered as a professional at a time when women were not always welcomed into the scientific academy.  She once told me of her mother’s dislike of her pursuing a career.  “But that didn’t stop me” she noted.  Nothing ever dampened her enthusiasm or spirit for her work.  Betty served on numerous department and College committees, and retired as an emerita professor in 1986.   However, she never really ‘retired’ from her work, and until her health intervened last year, could be seen working in her office at Sabin-Reed Hall.

In recent conversations she told me that “I want to come back in another life as an archivist.  You have such a wonderful job!”  A self-proclaimed pack-rat, the College Archives collection has been greatly enhanced by her contributions–in many forms, as have other units of the Library, including the Mortimer Rare Book Room, where Betty has donated wonderful 19th century volumes on natural history, according to Martin Antonetti, curator of rare books.

Because of her warmth and openess to explorations of all kinds, Betty has legions of friends from all over the world, and in many generations who will miss her greatly.  The College Archives will do its best to honor her work and life achievements by preserving her papers for the future.

Photograph by Dick Fish, 1986

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