Her “Many Gifts” Returned Fourfold

Barbara BettisonFamily was never more essential to her than when she found herself a single mother of four young children, in 1970. As the children grew up in Long Beach, nearby relatives, including her parents and her two brothers, provided critical role-modeling and emotional support.

Her children are now engaged in significant careers: the eldest, Cindy (Pitzer ’80), with a doctorate in anthropology, is the director and archeologist at Western New Mexico University Museum; Bonnie is a principal engineer for the Department of Public Works in Pasadena; Bill is a marketing manager for enterprise Rent-A-Car at LAX; the youngest daughter, Lori — well, we know about her.

How did a single mom raise four such accomplished children? It wasn’t an easy task, Barbara says, but her parents and other family members “gave my children roots — I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

After graduating from Scripps with “Talk about a BA in Spanish literature, Barbara studied at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona. She met her husband there; they married after a whirlwind courtship, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with Monsanto, and had four children by 1965.

After living several years in Caracus, Venezuela, the couple divorced, and Barbara and the children moved to Long Beach, California. Soon, Barbara was able to buy a house six blocks away from her parents with proceeds from the sale of a former home. She managed to get by with minimal child and spousal support and says, “I was very lucky to be able to do that.”

She did volunteer work in the schools and community. “I tried to be at home when the children were at home. I gave them plenty of responsibility — I owed it to them.”

The hardest part about being a single parent, Barbara said, was not having another person help make decisions or deal with household problems. And although she describes her situation as “difficult” and at times “traumatic,” she followed her own advice of never letting children think you shouldn’t have married their father.

When the first two children were in college, Barbara worked in various fields, and eventually became vice president of research for an investment advisory firm in Long Beach. When the company was sold, Barbara entered real estate, even though it was “one of the worst times for the market,” she says.

All the while, she remained close to her children. When Lori and husband Bob Varga invited Barbara to move to Wooster, Ohio, where the Vargas were on the faculty of The College of Wooster, Barbara accepted. And when Lori went to Whitman College as provost and dean of faculty, in 2007, Barbara followed.

Family remains central today as Barbara takes on her new role as “first grandmother” at Scripps College; she lives three blocks away on College Avenue. She relishes her role, babysitting on occasion, and loves being in close contact with family, as well as friends from grade school, high school, and college.

Daughter Cindy speaks for all of Barbara’s children when she says: “I am who I am today due in no small part to my mother. She served as an outstanding and inspirational role model to me and all my siblings when we were growing up, and continues to do so to this day.

“Talk about ‘the genius of women’ — that is my mom in a nutshell. She persevered through good and bad times to raise four incredible kids. We are all like her in perseverance and persistence, and our zest for life!”


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