BY SHANNON WILEY
Elizabeth Bellavance, an academic advocate and wife of former Salisbury University President Thomas Bellavance died from cancer in Richmond, Virginia on July 24 at the age of 77.
Since her late husband’s presidency at SU beginning in 1980, Elizabeth Bellavance was extremely involved with the university, especially the honors program.
She often attended lectures, performances and events put on by different departments and planned fundraisers for SU’s programs. Bellavance also heavily supported the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra and the WSCL radio station, which she was a founding member of.
Within the Bellavance Honors Program, which her husband founded, Bellavance was always involved, even when she could not be there. When she wasn’t there, she was sent pictures and packets so that she could stay current on the events and status of the program.
Even though he never met her in person, Bellavance Honors Program Director James Buss, who took on the role at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, said that Bellavance was always willing to help him.
“We used to email almost every other week about the program. She was always just so supportive of the program and encouraging of me when I was first starting out,” he said.
Before falling ill, Bellavance would come back to the University to meet and introduce herself to every incoming class of freshman in the Bellavance Honors Program.
Bellavance also stayed directly involved even when students and staff did not even know that she was.
The Saunterer is a magazine style newsletter that the Honors Program puts out twice a year, written and edited by honors students, as well as edited by Buss. Previous to the 2013-2014 school year, the periodical had not been published for two years. When the program decided to revitalize it, students wanted to do a large piece on the history of the program and the contribution of the Bellavance family.
When Buss was given the article to read and edit, he sent it to Bellavance to look at. She sent back notes, recordings of her husband’s lectures on academia and a quote from her family about academia. All of these resources Buss gave back to the students as if they were from him since Bellavance did not want students to know that it was her. Buss had not revealed this until now.
“I think students should know,” Buss said. “I think she’d be proud of it. She edited the entire thing without them knowing.”
Outside of the academic world, Bellavance was also heavily involved in her church and worked heavily for social justice. She was the Hispanic outreach representative for the Eastern Shore as well as a member of both the Steering Committee for SU’s Bienvenidos a Delmarva and the Maryland Catholic Conference Social Concerns Committee. She also represented the Eastern Shore on the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic affairs.
Bellavance avidly worked to avoid much recognition, but despite this she was awarded the governor’s Unsung Hero Award for all of her work and volunteering.
To honor her and her husband, in the study room of the Honors House hangs Thomas’s awards and distinctions.
“I’d love to get a framed photo of her here, too,” Buss said. “She meant a lot to the program, and she meant a lot to me in my first year in my transition to director.”