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Elizabeth "Betsy" Weitzenhoffer Blass
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Birth: Nov. 11, 1925
Oklahoma City
Oklahoma County
Oklahoma, USA
Death: Oct. 25, 2005
Little Rock
Pulaski County
Arkansas, USA

Elizabeth "Betsy" Weitzenhoffer Blass
Obituary Notice 10/25/2005

Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer (Betsy) Blass was asked at age nine what she wanted to be when she grew up. She replied, "A philanthropist" "Philanthropist an awfully big word for such a little girl," remarked the friend. "Do you know what it means?" Betsy replied, "a philanthropist is someone who gives away money to help other people."

Betsy Blass, philanthropist, political activist and adventurer, departed on her final journey October 25, 2005 from Little Rock, AR. She was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., November 11, 1925, and was amazed at the life she could never have imagined early on--a life filled with passion, charity, love for the outdoors and the exotic, and an insatiable curiosity. Whomever she met around the world was touched by her unparalleled joie de vivre.

This child philanthropist felt early on the importance of helping others. She began volunteering at Missouri State Cancer Hospital while still a student at Stephens College, followed by volunteering in the development area of Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Her marriage to the late Noland Blass Jr. facilitated her move to Little Rock, where she immediately became co-chair of the organization of the Arkansas State Mental Health Association.

Betsy's career in philanthropy underway, she was an early member of the Panel of American Women and secured the first planetarium for the City of Little Rock as a member of the Board of Directors of the Museum of Natural History. She co-chaired Women in Community Service, enabling women to return to the Job Corps, and ran the most successful membership drive to date, at that time, as a member of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Zoo. During this period, the world-renowned hostess gave a dinner party for the new zoo director, his wife and the zoo's newest addition, a baby orangutan. Ever thinking of the comfort of her guests, she had baby crib at the ready and milk warming in the kitchen.

A founding member of the Arkansas Children's Hospital Auxiliary, she led the most successful telethon to date, at that time, to support the hospital; chaired the Greater Little Rock Conference on Race and Religion to establish the first police and community relations organization in the central Arkansas area. Betsy organized the drive and raised funds for Operation Heartbeat, a science project for Little Rock high schools which brought international recognition from the scientific community to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Her interest in helping the blind led her to serve on the Board of Directors of International Services for the Blind and give her first significant philanthropic gift to the Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Garden of Exploration at Arkansas School for the Blind. Others benefiting from her efforts during this period were the Working Women's Preschool Center, which she chaired, and the Boards of Directors of Pulaski County Visiting Nurses Association, Pulaski County Family Service Agency and the Urban League of Arkansas.

She served as Vice Chair and Director of Seminole Manufacturing Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., and as a Director of Weitzenoffer-Seminole Foundation until her death.

Her insatiable curiosity about the world grew exponentially. When Betsy was not deeply immersed in a charitable campaign, she could be found deep in a jungle, perhaps Sumatra, perhaps the Philippines or Sri Lanka, climbing through Cambodian ruins, trying her hand (and flexibility) at bullfighting in Mexico or on safari in Namibia or Botswana. Two of her greatest adventures were with her grandsons, Oliver and Tyler Dilivio, as they cruised through the Galapagos Islands and Alaskan ice floes. Many of her most treasured hours were those at Seaside, Fla., with her grandsons, granddaughter Margie and their parents, Wendy Blass and John Dilivio.

Throughout her life, Betsy's passion for philanthropy burgeoned, and she determined that she needed to spend more time working toward building a better world. One of her first efforts was on the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) campus chairing the Medical Research Endowment Drive, the first to raise endowment funds for research on the campus. She was a founding member of the UAMS Foundation Fund, serving as chair, led the first major $1 million fundraising drive and chaired the $7 million drive to build Phase I of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC). She was a founding member of both the ACRC Auxiliary and the ACRC Foundation Fund Board, which she served as chair, and remained a Life Member. Betsy chaired the UAMS's Invest in Life Campaign that raised $65 million, exceeding its goal by $2 million. She continued to serve on the UAMS Foundation Board until her death.

A founding member of the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, she raised $1 million from the Inglewood Foundation to support the Inglewood Scholar for Research in the area of Alzheimer's Disease. This was the initial gift for what is now the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging. At the end of her fund-raising efforts, she was asked the total amount of gifts for which she was directly responsible. Over $50 million, she estimated.

Betsy believed that knowledge and research must be encouraged. She endowed the Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Lecture in Genetics presented bi-annually at UAMS to provide area scientists with the opportunity to interact with some of the world's leading genetic researchers. Her final gift to ACRC was envisioned as she and her daughter Buff discussed ACRC's needs. They felt that a laboratory used by scientists in the various disciplines would offer researchers shared access to significant facilities, enabling the sharing of knowledge and the advancement of science. It is the Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Research Laboratory.

The faces that greeted her on her campaigns around the state and on her travels throughout the world piqued her interest in photography. Always determined to "shoot for the moon," she became an internationally-known commercial photographer. Represented by Photo Researchers in New York, her photographs now appear on covers of books, in the Dutch encyclopedia and the homes of her most fortunate friends.

The faces of children during the Little Rock Crisis of 1957 focused Betsy's energy toward the inequities they suffer. She supported every effort to enable children to receive the best education possible. That included her own. When Little Rock Central High School and newly-constructed Hall High School were closed, elementary school children were attending class in Forest Park Elementary School Auditorium, deemed unsafe by the Little Rock Fire Department. A new but unoccupied school was closed, and yet children were schooled in questionable facilities. She removed her daughter and her female classmates from the structure and taught classes at home until Hall High was opened to the children for the remainder of the school year. Betsy's tenure as a teacher extended for a mere two weeks before local officials were moved to action.

Active in politics at both the local and national levels, Betsy became deeply concerned about the state of Washington politics during the Clinton years. Writer Gene Lyons came to her and asked for her support to write the book, "The Hunting of the President" with Joe Conason. Betsy and the late Fred Darragh were the silent underwriters of that effort.

Private though many of her accomplishments were, she was honored on both the national and local levels. She was one of only two non-medical personnel ever to receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from UAMS. In 1994, she received the highest national honor from the National Society of Fund-raising Executives, National Volunteer of the Year. She was recipient of the UAMS Chancellor's Award for 1989 and the Fund-Raising Executive 1986 Arkansas Volunteer of the Year honor.

Betsy Blass is survived by her daughter Buff Blass, daughter Wendy Dilivio of Denver, Colorado, grandchildren Oliver, Tyler and Margie Delivio, cousin Max Weitzenhoffer of Norman, Okla., and special friend Paddy Lewin of London, England.

The family will be at home at 34 Riverpoint. A memorial service commemorating her gifts of the heart will be held at 4 p.m. Monday, October 31, in Walton Auditorium on the 10th floor of ACRC on the UAMS campus, with a reception following in the Betsy Blass Board Room.

Arrangements are by Ruebel Funeral Home,

Memorial gifts may be made to the Ronald D. Robertson Chair for Trauma Surgery, Department of Surgery, UAMS, 4301 West Markham Street, Little Rock, 72205, or other philanthropic organizations.


Philanthropist loved travel, photography

Little Rock philanthropist, Elizabeth "Betsy" Weitzenhoffer Blass, died of cancer Tuesday at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She was 79.

Born in 1925 in Oklahoma City, Blass met her husband, the late Noland Blass Jr., through the efforts of his mother and a distant relative of Elizabeth's, who were childhood friends. Blass' father owned a chain of department stores in Arkansas.

At 20 years old and living in Memphis, Elizabeth had a reputation as being an attractive, eligible girl, known even in Little Rock, her daughter, Buff Blass said.

"My grandmother Blass heard about her and called my great aunt. They sent her to Little Rock on a train to meet my uncle and my father," her daughter said. "Mother and Daddy took to one another, and in three weeks he proposed. Three months later, they were married."

While supporting her husband's architectural career, Elizabeth enjoyed photography and was wellknown for her ability to see things others might have missed.

Her friends cherished her photographs, which she gave as gifts. Often they are memoirs of her travels or life experiences.

Theodosia Nolan, a friend, recalls numerous trips with Elizabeth on the prowl for the perfect photograph.

In Mexico, Elizabeth snapped shots of the ancient ruins at sunrise. "She would carry all of that heavy equipment up those ruins. I don't know how she did it," Nolan said. "They [photographs] were just beautiful."

Elizabeth enjoyed traveling the world and especially enjoyed exotic locations. Among her favorite destinations were Turkey, Paris, London and San Francisco, friend Fred Poe said.

"She was an adventurous person," Poe said. "She knew no fear."

Elizabeth Blass was a founding member of the UAMS Foundation Fund, the Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging at UAMS, and the Arkansas Cancer Research Center. She is one of only two nonmedical personnel ever to receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from UAMS. The Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory at UAMS was named in her honor.

"She always had an interest in science and health care," said Dr. Harry Ward, former chancellor of UAMS. "She was involved in every aspect of UAMS, and everything we did together was as a team."

Her friends said Elizabeth Blass always seemed comfortable, wherever she was.

"She was just as happy in a messy fishing boat, baiting her hook, as she was at an elegant banquet," Nolan said.

With a flare for the exotic, she once - for a party thrown for a zoo director - greeted dinner guests at the door with an orangutan on her hip, her daughter said.

She loved animals, and when a lone otter at the Little Rock Zoo needed a mate, Elizabeth Blass arranged for one to be shipped in from India, her daughter said.

"She named it Wendy-Bu, after my sister Wendy and me [Buff]."

She enjoyed meeting people and learning about their lives, even abroad. She was fluent in Spanish and French, Nolan said.

"When mother would meet someone and engage in conversation, she would ask them 'What is your passion?'" her daughter said. "She was a great lover of life."
This article was published on page 14 of the Thursday, October 27, 2005
Family links: 
  Noland Blass (1920 - 1998)
Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park
Little Rock
Pulaski County
Arkansas, USA
Created by: Steven Weinreich
Record added: Mar 22, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 87194790
Elizabeth Betsy <i>Weitzenhoffer</i> Blass
Added by: Steven Weinreich
Elizabeth Betsy <i>Weitzenhoffer</i> Blass
Added by: Dee Burris Blakley
Elizabeth Betsy <i>Weitzenhoffer</i> Blass
Cemetery Photo
Added by: David M. Habben
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