Elizabeth (Betsy) Stiles Knight

Elizabeth (Betsy) Stiles Knight

Elizabeth (Betsy) Stiles Knight passed away from cancer on January 15, 2017.

She was born in La Grange, IL, in 1960, and attended Lyons Township High School in Western Springs, IL. She earned a BS in environmental science and journalism at Butler University in Indianapolis, and a Master of Library and Information Science at the University of Washington. She also earned certifications as an archivist and digital archives specialist. At Butler she pledged the Delta Gamma sorority, which was the source of many lasting friendships.

Betsy’s lifelong love of astronomy began with a view of Saturn through the Betsy Knighttelescope at Butler University. She often mentioned that it changed her life forever. After college she worked for many years at the Cernan Space Center in River Grove Il, and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago Il, writing, and producing planetarium shows, and giving astronomy classes and lectures. She met her husband Dan under the stars inside the dome of the Adler Planetarium. Later, she managed the Challenger Learning Center, a space education program at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. Her love of science and learning eventually led her to become a science teacher, a science librarian and an archivist. She worked in several university libraries and archives over the years, including a five-year stretch at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, an institution she dearly loved.

Though her love of astronomy began with a view of a planet, it was galaxies and cosmology that were her true passion. Until shortly before her death she continued to observe galaxies with her 13.1 inch Dobsonian telescope. Using only a star chart and her trusty Telrad finder, she tracked down all of the Messier objects as well as 221 Herschel galaxies.

Aside from her interest in science and astronomy, Betsy also loved ballet, which Betsy Knightshe began studying in high school and continued to study all her life. She also loved to run and to hike. She jogged around Green Lake in Seattle countless times, completed several significant hikes around the world, and completed eight half marathons.  She was also interested in poetry, (especially the Iliad), fashion, and Soviet gulags, (yes, you read that right), and, of course, travel. She visited over 25 countries, including two years of Peace Corps service in Western Samoa, which she called the best thing she ever did, and a year in Ecuador. In Ecuador she was librarian and archivist at the Charles Darwin research station in the Galapagos Islands. She led the establishment of the station’s archive, and she founded the Library Betsy KnightAdvisory Board, which she chaired until her death. She called her work with the Charles Darwin research station her most satisfying professional accomplishment.

But the travel that most impacted Betsy was her childhood experience spending summers at the “cabino” on Lake Michigamme in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It instilled a love of outdoor adventure that lasted her whole life. She wrote, “It really shaped who I am.” And that it was “the greatest gift from Mom and Dad”.

Betsy was preceded in death by her parents, Audrey and Robert Stiles, and her grandmother, Marguerite McCullah. She is survived by her dear brother Bob, his children Justin, Jessica and Brittany, and their mother, Jane. She is also survived by her husband of 25 years, Daniel Knight, who loved her and was loved by her, more than all the world, to the power of a googolplex to a googol.

A memorial for Betsy will be held in the Wisteria Room at the Washington Park Arboretum at 1 PM, Saturday, March 4. All are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:

The Nature Conservancy
Attn: Treasury (web/memorial giving)
4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203, USA
(800) 628-6860





19 Responses to “Elizabeth (Betsy) Stiles Knight”

  • Michael McMenamin says:

    I don’t know about Bobby, John, Ann or Kathy but like Betsy Michigamme are some of my dearest memories. The only ones that are better are the ones of Betsy. One person I will never forget and will always love…

  • Mark Medoff says:

    Oh, Dan, what a lovely tribute! I didn’t know Betsy was quite the astronomer and was also the world traveler! She lived a very full life. She left an amazing legacy via her momentous accomplishments and her love for the world. I am so sorry about her passing and I send you my condolences. I know Elaine will keep her company. Thank you for sharing. I know others will benefit immensely from Betsy’s positive contributions to life, science, and learning. We are all very proud of her!

  • Kristin Johnson says:

    Thank you for this, Dan. When I first started teaching at Puget Sound, Betsy was the library liaison for my classes. My favorite days of the semester were when the class would go to the library, she would bring out dozens of books about Darwin, and somehow within that hour inspire the students (even the ones asleep in the back) to ‘wake up’ and care about research. And what an amazing smile, laugh… and pure joyfulness!

  • Kate McVay says:


    This is an incredibly poignant and fitting tribute, full of love and the beauty that is and was Elizabeth. While her life may not be measured in years, it is indeed a life well lived, chalk full of meaning and purpose, and oh, just a few incredible adventures along the way. You are both lucky to have had each other and to share such a life. Elizabeth would be so pleased with what you wrote; you were the love of her life. She was truly a remarkable person, one of finest people I have ever known.

  • Moira Davidson says:

    I got to know Elizabeth through her role as chair of the Library Advisory Board at the Darwin Research Station when I applied to be a volunteer librarian. Her encouragement and enthusiasm were so important in my decision to go ahead. Her passion for the precious archival material there, her vision for what the library and archives could be and her hard work in writing planning documents, funding application, etc. were inspiring. She is sorely missed.

  • David Larson says:

    I so very much wish I would have met this woman.

    My deepest condolences, brother.

  • Annie says:

    Elizabeth was the best person to meet at a pivotal point in my life – her brilliance was a guide like no other…she gave me more than I can ever say. what she brought to exit space, not just in my classes but everywhere in that studio, was a purity in and joy of movement, an ability to live in and express the very moment that was happening. She’ll always be with me and I know how lucky I am.

  • Sue Carey says:

    We have lost a dancer, and what an accomplished woman she was. Her light shines brightly choreographing a dance of shooting stars for us to remember on Earth.
    Her place at the barre is honored as we do our best to fill the black hole, where she danced til the week before her spirit took wing.
    Like the alto in a choir, her quiet but strong example melded us into ensemble. A full class is empty without her.
    Fellow dancer,
    Sue Carey

  • Marlo Ariz says:

    I loved seeing Elizabeth at the studio. She was always full of light as she greeted me with a smile. She was graceful and strong in ballet and a beautiful mover. Most of all, I will remember the warmth and kindness that was so evident in her eyes. I am so lucky to have crossed her path. She will be deeply missed at eXit SPACE and throughout our community.

  • Patt Leonard says:

    I met Elizabeth when we both worked at the University of Puget Sound. I was very impressed with her personal kindness, professional expertise, her sense of commitment, and the adventuresome way she said “Yes!” to traveling the world.

  • Jeff Tepper says:

    Elizabeth was one of the most energetic, adventurous, and positive people I have ever known. As a reference librarian she knew about almost “everything” (and if she didn’t know something she’d find the answer and send over a packet of relevant articles). One of my favorite memories was in 2009 when my wife and I went to the Galapagos. As our boat approached the dock we saw a paper plate tacked to the railing: “Welcome Jeff and Carol”. It was of course from Elizabeth, who was working a stint at the Darwin Library. She showed us around and it was nice to meet up with a friend in such a remote location. There should be a star named after her!

  • Matthew Rose says:


    I’m reminded right now of a line from James Joyce from his book Ulysses, a book about an incredible journey that takes place in a single Dublin day. The line “Loves love to love love,” tells us alot about ourselves and each other and why we need one another and in the end will always have one another. Elizabeth is that love, as are you.

    As she would have wanted, I have made a donation to the Nature Conservancy and could not think of a better way to remember her. To you both, Love, Matthew

  • John Wharton says:

    I was so very sorry to hear of Elizabeth’s death. I met her at a planetarium conference close to 30 years ago, learning to my shock that she and I shared a common thread: Both graduates of Butler University, both journalism majors, and both of us having worked part-time at the campus observatory & planetarium, where the experience launched both of us into the planetarium field and our professional careers. I last saw Elizabeth at Museum of Flight and had lost touch with her. I found now what an accomplished life she lived then and later. A remarkable woman. My condolences to her husband and family.

  • Mary DeVuono Englund says:

    Thank you, Dan, for writing this beautiful insight into Elizabeth. It makes me realize that Elizabeth was an incredible being I was privileged to know even one facet of. For me Elizabeth was a quiet but masterful leader in ballet class, something like first chair in an orchestra. She was at the head of the class literally, taking the lead position at the bar, where we could all follow her perfect timing and precision as she performed Annie’s choreography. Elizabeth and I didn’t have very many discussions about our work, but I remember one about the Wayback Machine and archiving the Internet. I just barely dipped into her pool of knowledge, but I felt her wisdom whenever I was with her. The feeling I will always treasure is that Elizabeth brought joy and made me feel like I brought her joy. I know you two loved each other to the power of a googolplex to a googol (I had to look up those terms) because I saw it, when you were together.


    One more star to shine in the sky when I look at the sky will always remember and look soreir with that tenderness. Beautiful inside and out.


  • Marie Bronoel says:

    I met Elizabeth in graduate school where our paths led us to become science librarians and close friends. She amazed me with her brilliance, insight, ideas and enthusiasm. Elizabeth had a joy for life and spirit of adventure filled with curiosity and fascination of the natural world and wonders of the sky. She had empathy and compassion for others and it felt good to be in her presence. I see her as a star in the night heavens.

  • Godlind Johnson says:

    I had never met Elizabeth in person and wish i had even more after reading this beautiful obituary. There were so many facets of her life, that I had no idea about! She facilitated and guided my work as a volunteer librarian at the Charles Darwin Foundation Library in 2012. Her enthusiasm and passion for that place was infectious; the impacts of her knowledgeable and wise leadership will be felt for a long time at the CDF Library. Such a well-lived life!

  • Bart Benjamin says:

    One of my best decisions as Director of the Cernan Center was to hire Betsy Stiles to succeed me as Space Center Assistant. She was a gifted writer, skilled public speaker, and show producer. Audiences and colleagues loved her for her warmth, her energetic smile, and her enthusiastic love of astronomy. After moving to Seattle, Betsy visited the Cernan Center staff several times, most recently in June of 2015. She kept the severity of her illness private, and we were shocked and deeply saddened by the news of her passing at such a young age. She will be missed by the many people whose life was touched by her.

    Bart Benjamin
    Former Director, Cernan Earth & Space Center

  • Johannah Barry says:

    Dear Family members,

    We would like to feature a short piece about Elizabeth in our bi-annual newsletter, Galapagos News, published by Galapagos Conservancy. I had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth and also working with Newell Knight on the purchase of books for the CDRS library. Would it be possible to have a photo we can use, esp. one with with Elizabeth at the CDRS library. Sincerely, Johannah Barry, President, Galapagos Conservancy

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