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