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   Date: 9/30/09 Bookmark and Share

A Celebration of Life

A memorial service will be held in honor of B. Elizabeth Horner on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m. in Helen Hills Hills Chapel. View a program of the event.

B. Elizabeth Horner, 1916-2009

Read tributes to Betty Horner by her friends and family in the Smith community:

Carol T. Christ, president, Smith College

Brad Horner, nephew

Sriyanie Miththapala ’88

Leslie DeCillis ’86

Carol T. Sarokhan ’73

Peggy Shepard ’59

Marjorie M. Holland ’74

Dorcas MacClintock ’54

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Longtime Smith College professor and Smith honorary degree recipient B. Elizabeth Horner, a renowned educator who taught biology to countless young women through more than six decades at the college, died at home Tuesday, April 29. It was her 93rd birthday.

Although retired, until recently Horner, the Myra M. Sampson Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences, still came to campus to perform research with a student assistant, a routine that she began in 1938.

Horner is survived by a nephew and niece, Brad and Linda, and by generations of Smith graduates that she inspired to follow the questions that excite their minds.

Born in Merchantville, New Jersey, Horner was fascinated with animals from early in life. As a youth, she sold her bugle to raise the money for scientific materials and expressed interest in becoming a surgeon. However, in an era when female surgeons were unheard of, Horner chose to pursue a career as academic scientist.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Douglass College, Horner enrolled in a master’s program at Smith and worked with her first students as a teaching fellow in zoology. She completed a doctoral degree at the University of Michigan in 1948.

From 1938 until 1986, when Horner retired as a full professor, she taught at Smith. Her research sought to achieve an understanding of the complex interplay of behavioral and anatomical adaptations of small mammals to their environments. Her approach combined field and laboratory techniques.

Horner’s research took her to countries such as Australia, Jordan, Kenya and Panama, expeditions that resulted in the publication of nearly 50 research articles. Her dissertation, published in 1954, was hailed as a landmark look at the adaptive behavior of animals that live in trees.

In 1968, the editors of “Who’s Who of American Women” added Horner to the publication. As recently as 1997, she received the Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Education from the American Society of Mammalogists.

When Smith awarded Horner an honorary degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, nearly three years ago to the day, President Carol T. Christ remarked, “You have been heralded as a dedicated researcher and educator, infusing countless students with the gift of curiosity and a passion for biology.”

“Your gentle warmth touches all who meet you,” Christ added.

Since her retirement, the Horner Fund for Research at Smith has provided summer research support for students and honors a scholar whose generosity to Smith is—like Horner’s—unquantifiable.

Of her career, Horner once remarked that she has “loved every minute of it.”

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