/////Betsy Blass Leaves Legacy of Service to UAMS
Betsy Blass Leaves Legacy of Service to UAMS 2018-01-05T09:15:51+00:00

OCT. 28, 2005 | At age 9, Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer “Betsy” Blass knew the word philanthropist, how to pronounce it and that she wanted to be one.

When a friend asked if she knew what it meant, the story goes, the young Blass said: “It’s someone who gives away money to help other people.”


Blass died Oct. 25, 2005.  She was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., Nov. 11, 1925.


During her almost 80 years, Blass accomplished her goal in a lifetime of giving, with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) becoming a major beneficiary of her efforts.


“UAMS would not be the institution it is today if it weren’t for Betsy’s vision,” said Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. “She was an amazing and insightful person who played a major role in almost every program and center of excellence we have. She will missed by many but she will be remembered each day as we carry on with the work she helped us begin.”


One of Blass’ first efforts on behalf of UAMS was 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 Board, serving as chair, led the first $1 million fund-raising drive and chaired the $7 million drive to build Phase I of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC). 


UAMS Chancellor Emeritus Harry P. Ward, M.D., said Blass will be deeply missed. Ward said that when he and his wife, Betty Jo, moved to Arkansas in 1979 to take the chancellor’s position, Blass introduced them to the community and helped to raise UAMS’ profile.


“Betsy brought in friends and colleagues from all over the world,” Ward said. “In the more than 21 years I spent as chancellor, we worked as partners in absolutely everything. She was so valuable to all that UAMS accomplished.”


Blass was a founding member of both the ACRC Auxiliary and the ACRC Foundation Fund Board, for which she served as chair, and remained a Life Member.  She chaired the UAMS “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 Institute on Aging. 


Blass 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 genetics researchers. Her final gift to the ACRC was envisioned as she and her daughter, Buff Blass, discussed the 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.


A founding member of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, Blass led the most successful telethon to date at that time to support the hospital. She 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 UAMS.


Blass was one of only two non-medical persons ever to receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from UAMS. In 1994, she received the highest 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.


She served as vice chair and director of Seminole Manufacturing Co. in Kalamazoo, Mich., and as a director of the Weitzenhoffer-Seminole Foundation until her death.


Blass is survived by daughters Buff Blass of Little Rock and Wendy Dilivio of Denver, Colo.; grandchildren Oliver, Tyler and Margie Delivio; cousin Max Weitzenhoffer of Norman, Okla.; and special friend Paddy Lewin of London, England.


A tribute service commemorating her gifts of the heart will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 31 in Walton Auditorium on the 10th floor of the ACRC on the UAMS campus, with a reception following in the Betsy Blass Board Room.


Gifts may be made to the Ronald D. Robertson Chair for Trauma Surgery, Department of Surgery, UAMS, 4301 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR 72205, or other philanthropic organizations.