Elizabeth “Betsy” Anne Cogswell Smith, 90, of Middlebury


MIDDLEBURY — Elizabeth “Betsy” Anne Cogswell Smith, 90, passed away peacefully in Middlebury, Vt., on Dec. 29, 2022. Betsy was born Sept. 7, 1932, in Rutland, Vt., the daughter of Esme Arthur Charles Smith and Marion Marguerite Ballou Smith. Her sister, Margaret “Peggy” Smith Pratt, predeceased her on Feb. 10, 2022.

Betsy graduated in the Class of 1951 from Dana Hall School in Wellesley, Mass. She had attended Rutland High School with the Class of 1950 and was given an Honorary Diploma in 2010 while attending her 60th reunion.

In 1955, Betsy earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, N.Y. Her concentrations were in English and the Performing Arts, with a focus on Music. Betsy wrote the story, lyrics, and music for a folk opera that was performed at her college graduation. Making and listening to music (voice, piano, recorder, composition, concerts) would remain lifelong interests. In the early 1960s, to create a place to bring together alumnae and to introduce young women and men to the college, Betsy helped establish the Boston Sarah Lawrence Club.

After college, Betsy was drawn to Cambridge, Mass., with its wealth of intellectual opportunities, international diversity, and proximity to her family living in Vermont. For over three decades (1957–1993), she made significant contributions working within Harvard University. As Special Assistant in the Office of the Assistant to the President for Development, she worked with President Nathan Pusey, developing and sustaining relationships with major donors. In 1960, Professor I. Bernard Cohen hired Betsy as Administrator for the fledgling Department of the History of Science, where she wove important threads into what emerged as the academic discipline of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

One person observed, “I thought how much she had shaped the human side of the department — besides making it run efficiently.” And another shared, “Through all sorts of office moves, Betsy … held things together and provided that sense of familiarity that ‘place’ certainly did not.” In retrospect, Betsy was moved to write: “Never could I have chosen a better spot in which to spend most of my adult life.”

Sports (e.g. sailing, swimming, and archery) were important pastimes to Betsy. From a young age, she attended Moss Lake Camp, an international girls’ camp in upstate New York. At age 15, Betsy became the New York State Junior Archery Champion. On behalf of all MLC alumnae, in 1992, with her sister, she collaborated with the New York State Department of Conservation and the Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers to erect an historical plaque on Moss Lake, the first cooperative effort between the public and private sectors within the park.

Most important in her life were family and friends. Whatever came, Betsy mused, “No matter how our time together is spent, it is the sharing of this time that we value.” Fully attuned to the range of intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of living, Betsy brought a depth and breadth of understanding to her nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends, always with support, wisdom, wit, and an ability to rise above despair and loss and to carry on.

“Betsy has that remarkable quality … of making whomever she is speaking to feel important. No problem was ever too trivial, no person too insignificant for her not to stop whatever she was doing, give that wonderful smile of recognition, and pick up the last conversation, whether it had been the previous day or the previous decade.”

Betsy is survived by her nieces/nephews: Randall, Karen, Dale, Dianne, Douglas, and Jeffrey Pratt, and Sirivishnu (né Keith) Khalsa; 12 grandnieces/nephews; and nine great-grandnieces/nephews. Betsy was predeceased by her father, Esme A. C. Smith; her mother, Marion B. Smith; her sister, Margaret “Peggy” Smith Pratt; her brother-in-law, William A. Pratt, M.D.; and Douglas’ wife, Ina Catlin Pratt. Betsy’s communion with dogs was well known. The special dog-friends that predeceased her include Bubbles and Java.

The family would like to thank Dr. Howard Weaver for his medical care of Betsy over the years. Her Taking Care of You friends — Deb Wilkinson, Lori Cyr, Margaret Mousseau, Connie Tupper and Sarah McGrath — brought many kindnesses and much support. We also thank the staff at the Residence at Otter Creek, especially chef par excellence, Eric Smith; her caregivers; and her friends there — a place that she came to know and cherish as “Home.”

A small family gathering to celebrate Betsy’s life will be held in May, arrangements handled by the Tossing Funeral Home of Rutland, Vt. Memories of Betsy can be shared through the Addison Independent at; the Cambridge Chronicle and Tab at; and the Rutland Herald:

Remembrances in Betsy’s name may be made to the Dana Hall School (45 Dana Rd., P.O. Box 9010, Wellesley, MA, 02482-9010); Sarah Lawrence College (1 Mead Way, Bronxville, N.Y., 10708-9999); the Salvation Army (P.O. Box 218, Rutland, VT, 05702); and the Rutland Historical Society (96 Center St., Rutland, VT, 05701-4023).◊


Share this story:

More News

Steven Jon Bless, 75, formerly of Bristol

Screenshot NEWTON, Mass. — Steven Jon Bless, who raised his four children in Bristol, Vt., … (read more)


Wilma May Boise, 82, of New Haven

WILMA MAY BOISE NEW HAVEN — Wilma May Boise, 82, of New Haven, passed away on Saturday, Ju … (read more)


Eleanor Anne (Wesslen) Holsman, 88, of Ripton

ELEANOR ANNE (WESSLEN) HOLSMAN RIPTON — Eleanor Anne (Wesslen) Holsman, passed away on May … (read more)

Share this story: