Sister Elizabeth Henry Bellmer, SND, saved many a tree on Trinity’s campus, long before the Green Movement was fashionable. Our remarkable landscape, originally designed by Olmstead, includes an astonishing variety of chestnut, beech, magnolia, pine, maple and other beautiful trees. But over the years, as building and maintenance needs evolved, the workers would occasionally think that progress required removing a tree. Not on Sr. Elizabeth’s campus! This renowned botanist could shut down the chainsaws, saving, among others, an elegant tall evergreen near the library that was endangered for a while because it blocked a security light. Move the light, don’t destroy the tree! She was right, of course, and the tree still lives, albeit with a chainsaw scar.
Many alumnae, faculty and friends of Sr. Elizabeth are recalling this remarkable scientist, colleague, teacher and sister today. She died earlier this week after a long life devoted to her faith, her community in the Sisters of Notre Dame, and her profession as a biologist working in the field of botany. She was a member of Trinity’s faculty from 1959 through her retirement in 1995. She continued to live in Trinity’s convent until several years ago when she moved to the SND retirement community. Read more about her professional work through this link to the UNC Herbarium website.
Sr. Elizabeth’s former students are writing in with their memories of her. Following are just a few of their messages:
“Sister Elizabeth Henry was my inspiration. She was a fabulous teacher and scientist… I remember thinking that if she loved this work so much and had such a wonderful time with her chosen field there had to be somthing to this!!! I have been a Genetics Professor for the last 32 years… I have been lucky to have loved my work and I am still having a great adventure in my work. Sister Elizabeth Henry is in my scientist’s soul ….My inspiration will live on. She had many many loving daughters.” AnnMarie Catanzaro DiLorenzo, Ph.D, Class of 1964, Professor of Biology and Molecular Biology, Montclair State University
“Sr. Elizabeth Henry was one of the kindest, wisest, most supportive teachers I have ever known. During my senior year at TC (1963-4) I was an unregistered student in her class Genetics, Evolution and Ecology… She came to our wedding in the Trinity Chapel in 1976; sadly, that was the last time I saw her. I wish I could be there to join in celebrating her life and her contribution to biology at Trinity.” Maura Geens Tyrrell, Ph.D., Class of 1964, Professor of Biology, Stonehill College
“I took many of Sr. Elizabeth’s classes and also worked for her as a lab assistant. She was an amazing professor and an amazing person – she will be dearly missed.” Isabel Galvan, Class of 1993
“Sr. Elizabeth… was a wonderful person and I will always remember her friendly demeanor and her passion for Botany.” Rachel Ferrufino, Class of 1992
“Please forward my condolences to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur for the loss of their beloved Sister Elizabeth Henry Bellmer. I was a biology major, Class of ’67. I was inspired by Sister Elizabeth Henry to become a biology teacher and researcher. I am very sad to hear of her passing. Her kind and generous spirit and her caring personality meant a lot to me.” Sandra Pierson, Class of 1967
Please send your memories of Sr. Elizabeth to me — firstname.lastname@example.org — and I will share them on this blog.