Remembering Betty Scholtz, director emeritus of Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Scholtz was the first woman to lead a major urban botanic garden in the U.S.
Elizabeth (Betty) Scholtz, celebrated horticulturist and beloved director emeritus of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, died at her home in Brooklyn on April 22 at the age of 98.
Ms. Scholtz had been associated with Brooklyn Botanic Garden for 60 years, since her arrival from South Africa to head the Garden’s Adult Education department in November 1960. She was later appointed director of the Garden in 1972, the first woman to lead a major urban botanic garden in the U.S. She was named director emeritus in 1987 and worked at the Garden nearly daily until late 2019.
“Betty was an inspiration for generations of gardeners worldwide. She brought extraordinary leadership and vision to our profession — not just to BBG but to botanic gardens across the globe,” Brooklyn Botanic Garden Board Chair Diane Steinberg said. “She was a role model for us all and an always dependable source of wit and wisdom. She will be deeply missed by everyone here.”
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1921, Ms. Scholtz received a BS degree in botany and zoology at the University of Witwatersrand. After earning a certificate in medical technology, she collaborated on several medical research papers while in charge of the laboratory in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. In 1957, Ms. Scholtz received a yearlong fellowship in hematology at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital (now Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center). It was there that by chance she met Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s second director, Dr. George Avery, who later offered her a job.