Obituary - Elizabeth M. Holt (1939 - 2003)

Obituary | Publications Curriculum Vitae | Videos | Slides | Articles 

Elizabeth M. Holt (1939 - 2003)

ACA RefleXions, Fall 2003



The scientific community was shocked at the sudden passing of Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Manners Holt on June 9, 2003, in Paris, France. She succumbed after a few days to a seizure of unknown origin. She was on a two-week professional/recreational trip to France and Morocco, where she had joint research projects since 1989 with scientists at the Ecole National Superior de Chemie in Lille, France, and at the Department du Chimie du Solide of Mohammed V-Agdal Universite of Rabat, Morocco.

Betsy was born August 2, 1939, in Pittsburgh, PA, the daughter of Theodore and Helen Manners. Her early education was in the public schools of Pittsburgh. She earned a cum laude B.S degree from Smith College in 1961 and a Ph.D. from Brown University, under the guidance of Dr. H. R. Nace, in 1966. She was a Research Associate at the Polytechnik Laereanstalt, Copenhagen, Denmark from 1965-66. For the next three years she worked at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York, and then she moved to the University of Wyoming. In 1978 she moved to the University of Georgia as a Research Associate.

In 1980 Betsy moved to the Chemistry Department at Oklahoma State University where she was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1981 and full Professor in 1987. She taught organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, freshman chemistry, and x-ray crystallography at OSU and was also Director of the X-ray Analysis Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry. In 1988 she received a Fulbright Foundation Fellowship to do research on the analysis of certain phosphate materials common in Morocco.

Betsy’s outstanding teaching ability was rewarded by her selection as the AMOCO Foundation Outstanding Teacher in 1984. She received the Etta Louise Gerry National Award for Women Chemists in1981; the Phi Eta Sigma Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in1993; and was the recipient of the Regents Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001. Betsy mentored 11 Ph.D. students, 5 M.S. students, and 28 undergraduate researchers. She collaborated with many on-campus and off-campus scientists and hosted several visiting scientists and post-doctoral researchers in her laboratory. She authored more than 250 publications, and more than 100 papers/posters were presented by Betsy, her collaborators, and her students.

Recently her research focused on the structural and physical properties of fluorescent Cu(I) complexes. Her research elucidated the effects of site symmetry, coordination, and elemental composition, providing a basis for understanding the underlying principles of light emission in these and related compounds. She also utilized ab initio calculations to demonstrate how symmetry elements impose forbiddingness on expected emissions while allowing others of higher energy. Work on certain calcium complexes of beta-blockers and allergens helped to illuminate the role of such materials in biological regulations and in the immune response. Betsy’s work on crystal engineering of selected phosphate complexes led to a variety of pre-organized structures such as linear chains, layered sheets, etc.  The incorporation of transition metal ions into these structures leads to a variety of magnetic couplings whose magnitudes and signs depend upon the geometry of their interactions. Applications derived from this work extend far beyond the phosphate-based materials. Betsy is survived by a daughter and a son.

- Neil Purdie, Chair, Oklahoma State Chemistry Department