Published: Sep 30, 2012 12:02 AM
Modified: Sep 30, 2012 12:02 AM
Dr. Betty H. Landsberger died peacefully on September 13, 2012, at the age of 94, accompanied by her husband of sixty-one years, Dr. Henry A. Landsberger, and her three children. Betty (as she was fondly known) was an extraordinary person. Her professional and personal accomplishments flowed from her unwavering determination to use her talents and skills to address specific social problems and improve the lives of others.
Betty was born in Tampa, Florida on August 9, 1918 and grew up in nearby Dunedin. A self-proclaimed tomboy, she sailed in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico (back and forth beneath the drawbridge to see how many times the operator would open it) and explored underwater in a homemade diving bell (fashioned out of a discarded water heater). She graduated from Florida State University, Tallahassee, with a B.A. in Sociology in 1939 (Phi Beta Kappa), received a Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the following year, and was awarded a Ph.D. in Child Development and Family Relationships from Cornell University in June 1951. In her dissertation, Betty explored the importance of looking at intangible qualities in human relationships, particularly adult empathy for children, in selecting and training good teachers. It was at Cornell that Betty met Henry A. Landsberger, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Following their marriage on
June 10, 1951, the Landsbergers lived in Ithaca, New York, where Betty taught in the departments of education and child development at Cornell and SUNY Cortland, and Henry became a full professor at Cornell. In 1960, the family moved to Santiago, Chile for four years, in part to be close to Henry’s parents who had settled in Valparaiso after fleeing Nazi Germany. The Landsbergers settled in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1968, where Henry taught Sociology at the University of North Carolina until his retirement.
From 1969 until the mid-1970s, Betty worked as a consultant on the development and evaluation of early childhood education programs throughout North Carolina. In 1976, she became a lecturer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the School of Nursing. She became an assistant professor in 1979 and an associate professor in 1981, until her retirement in 1988. The focus of Betty’s professional and community service activities evolved over time, reflecting her personal engagement with the issues she was devoted to. In 1983, she began offering a course entitled “Women over 50 in Contemporary Society.” That same year, she submitted a research proposal to the AARP entitled, “A Comparative Study of Aging Policy with Attention to Provisions for Women.” The resulting book, Long Term Care for the Elderly: A Comparative View of Layers of Care, was published in 1985. Throughout her life, she served on local and regional advisory boards and was a member of professional organizations devoted to health policy and services for children and for senior citizens, particularly women, including the American Association for the Education of Young Children, the League of Women’s Voters, the Older Women’s League and the AARP. In 1983 and 1984, she was listed in Who’s Who in American Women.
Betty loved being surrounded by her grandchildren. Her first grandchild, Chellie Nayar, was born on May 18, 1997, followed closely by Maisie Thomas, Huws Landsberger, Krish Nayar and Rei Landsberger. In the words of Bronwen Holden, a life-long friend of the Landsberger family, Betty was “a lovely woman. Always so gracious, so measured and so kind, clever but so tolerant of others, and adventurous in her quiet way.”
In addition to her husband and grandchildren, Betty is survived by her daughter and son-in law, Margaret and Conner Thomas; her son and daughter-in law, Sam and Miko Landsberger; and her daughter and son-in-law Ruth Landsberger and Hari Nayar.
A memorial service conducted by Pastor Mark Davidson of the Church of Reconciliation will be held at Carolina Meadows on October 12, 2012, at 3:00 p.m.
Condolences to the family may be made to Carolina Meadows Gifts and Remembrance Fund: 100 Carolina Meadows (Attn: Betty Landsberger Gifts & Remembrance) Chapel Hill, NC 27517.
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