Elizabeth Spahr, also remembered as Betty Spahr Del Duca, 81, passed away on August 16, 2012, after a long battle with cancer which lasted nearly twelve years. At the time of her death, she was recovering from recent surgery at Loudoun Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Leesburg, Virginia. She is survived by two married daughters, Gretchen H. Del Duca and her husband William Sans Soucie of Forest, Virginia, and Carolyn E. Del Duca and her husband William Conrad Mohler of Reston, Virginia.
Born in Warren, Ohio on November 12, 1930, Elizabeth Francis Spahr was the first daughter of Sullivan Maurice Francis Spahr and Elizabeth Rebecca St. Clair Spahr. Her parents were athletes in their early careers, both playing baseball in the summer months, and basketball in the winter months. Her father, who later became a policeman for the City of Warren, Ohio, passed away in 1971, and her mother, who later became a registered nurse, passed away in 1980.
At any early age, Elizabeth demonstrated a talent for music, and was the pianist for a ballet company in Warren, whereby she helped to facilitate her further education. She graduated from Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio, in 1948, and was recognized in 2003 by that institution with a Lifetime Achievement Award. She then attended Flora Stone Mather College, which later became part of Case Western Reserve University, from which institution she received her Bachelor of Science (1952), Master of Science (1954), and Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry (1957).
Dr. Spahr took up her first post with the then nascent National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in the1950’s, where she remained until 1971. A fuels and power cell specialist, and one of only two women scientists employed by the new Administration, Dr. Spahr published numerous significant scientific papers which are a matter of record, and was a key individual in the U.S.’ eventual achievement of a lunar landing during the Apollo Project. In addition, Dr. Spahr contributed significantly to several other important NASA projects. Dr. Spahr received the Apollo Achievement Award for her contribution to Apollo 11’s successful landing on the Moon, July 11, 1969, as well as the NASA Federal Service Award. During the oil embargo crisis of the 1970’s, Dr. Spahr decided to return to university in order to apply her scientific expertise to the business world in order to resolve ongoing problems of oil supply and distribution. She received her Masters of Business Administration from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in 1973. She later took up the post as Manager of International Operations at the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and in that capacity, worked at the OECD in Paris on a significant exercise in international oil allocation (were the known supply of oil to be substantially interrupted), and received the highest performance for this exercise to date. Dr. Spahr, as Senior Project Manager and Manager of Special Projects for Standard Oil of Ohio, also managed the implementation of the Alaskan Pipeline, as well as day-to-day scheduling of oil supply and distribution internationally until her retirement from that position in 1986. She was considered to be the first woman ever to reach this degree of responsibility in the oil business.
Later in 1986, Dr. Spahr took up the post of Vice President of Planning and Development for the Ameritrust Corporation, for which she was responsible for major, one-time real estate development projects of more than $100MM, as well as the implementation of new technologies in the banking field.
Inveterately aware of the difficulties women face both in terms of achievement, and the ability to acquire the necessary highest levels of education, Dr. Spahr then decided to devote her attention to this specific problem. She thus took up the post as Director of Administration of Finance of the American Association of University Women in Washington, DC, in 1993, where she remained until 1998.
After her second retirement in 1998, she started a small business that consulted, trained and provided employment services for highly-skilled individuals in the emerging computer technology field.
In 2002, Dr. Spahr became increasingly concerned about issues of the environment, particularly the effects of the petroleum industry and its lack of management of this issue, given her earlier work. She then took up the post of Associate Director of Horn Point Laboratories at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, where she remained until 2011. Horn Pointe has been critically involved in the ‘clean up’ of the Chesapeake Bay, and other important environmental evaluations and projects.
Dr. Spahr’s many achievements include her appointments as Trustee for Life, Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management Visiting Committee, Case Institute of Technology Advisory Board, a two-year appointment as Chairman of CWRU Board of Overseers, Albion College Distinguished Professor of Management and Economics (1981), and a Member of the Visiting Committee for the Case Institute of Technology.
Dr. Spahr’s determination to assist those struggling in emerging fields of science and technology led her to found, along with others, the Edison Program of Technology Utilization for the State of Ohio. Likewise, she also became a board member of the CWRU Business Incubator. In her early career, she had been a popular volunteer speaker for NASA with a focus on linking current research to relevant industry problems, and she travelled extensively across the U.S., often appearing on television and in the news generally in this capacity.
Dr. Spahr was of a generation that believed that science could provide critical problem resolution for many issues relating to the quality of human life. Therefore, her fund raising and community activities with respect to various social institutions were also noteworthy, and included her Presidency of the Cuyahoga Hospital Foundation, President of the Trinity Day Care Center of Cleveland, Ohio, Founder of the Society of Women Engineers in Cleveland, Ohio, Board Member of the Cleveland Dialysis Center, Chairman of the U.S. Government National Women’s Program, President of the Altrusa Women’s Service Club (one of, if not the, first international organizations for professional women), as well as her appointment to the national Board of Directors of the YWCA. Dr. Spahr was also the National Chair for CWRU Annual Fund (1989-1993) whereby she generated in excess of $4M per annum, Alumni Chair of the Endowment Campaign CWRU, a Member of the Committee to establish the Elizabeth Walker Scholarship Fund, and Chair of the Annual Fund, Weatherhead School of Management, just to name the most outstanding of her numerous posts and civic activities.
Dr. Spahr was also very proud of her contribution to the six member committee to establish the award-winning Encyclopedia of Cleveland. It should be noted that Dr. Spahr’s mother was of the family St. Clair, and the main street of the City of Cleveland being so-named, was also the site of the first traffic light in the United States. Dr. Spahr also contributed DNA to the Human Genome project, on behalf of the test family St. Clair.
Dr. Spahr was well-travelled, and also enjoyed needlepoint, at which she was quite gifted and creative in her designs. She was best known for her elegant entertaining; however, she was unusually gifted in any number of hobbies and crafts, including gardening and garden design, woodworking, DIY projects, sewing, etc.
Dr. Spahr, also known as Dr. Del Duca, is listed in many issues, editions and formats of Who’s Who.
A rare and truly gifted individual, Dr. Spahr made important contributions to the improvement of many aspects of our lives, and her loss will be felt by many, however unknowingly.
Family will receive friends on Saturday, August 25, 2012 between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. at the Colonial Funeral Home, 201 Edwards Ferry Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA 20176 where a memorial service will immediately follow starting at 1:00 p.m.