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Elizabeth Tarr Schneider ’44

Jean McCall, Betty Tarr Schneider ’44, unknown

December 27, 2019, in Palo Alto, California.

Betty was an active artist her entire life. She was fascinated with shadows and stripes as a child in Portland and won an elementary school art contest. At the insistence of her brother Bob Tarr ’43, she came to Reed. She and Jane Gevurtz ’44 were welcomed to Abington by having their beds short-sheeted, alarm clocks hidden throughout their room, and their clothes hung from the roof turrets. They retaliated by turning on the fire hoses to flush the giggling residents from their rooms and were each fined $50.

“To raise the funds,” she remembered, “we set up a cut-rate doughnut stand in front of the coffee shop. After eviction, we created an impromptu hair-cutting chair outside our dorm, with one of us cutting and the other praising the work. There were no mirrors, naturally.”

Daunted by the thought of junior quals and the specter of the senior thesis, Betty left Reed after two impressionable years. “I’m sure those two initial years at Reed fueled my energy and future, and for that I’m forever grateful!” she said. “Once a Reedie, its mark is always on you!”

She planned to complete her degree at UCLA, where she had been told such onerous requirements did not exist. To earn money in Los Angeles, she took a job as a stenographer at Lockheed, where she met Jack Schneider. They married six weeks later. He assured her she could still get her degree, and though she also harbored a dream of seeing the world as an airline stewardess, Jack countered with, “Marry me and you can fly without serving coffee, tea, or milk.” It would take 44 years before she completed her PhD, but in the meantime she and Jack traveled, loved, and had many adventures.

They had two children, Karen and Jonathan, and while Jack taught at UCLA, Betty took classes, working slowly towards her BA. When they moved to Northern California, she took art courses at San Jose State. Jack became a Fulbright lecturer in applied statistics and they lived and worked in five different countries in 24 years: Mexico, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, and Brazil. Betty took courses in drawing and painting, teaching at the University of Sonora in Mexico where Jack was teaching. She had several exhibits, including a one-woman exhibit at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City. Her large images of athletes in action—painted in association with the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico—toured the country. Her works are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

Betty completed a BA and an MA in art at San Jose State University and then changed her focus to photography. In the late ’70s, she and Jack moved to Mozambique and then to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he took a Fulbright faculty position with the University of the Witwatersrand, and Betty became a graduate student. This enabled her unusual access to tribal lands, where she gathered data for her dissertation, “Paint, Pride, and Politic, Analyzing the Distinctive Wall Paintings by Ndebele Tribal Women.” At the age of 64, Betty completed a PhD in African art.

During her years in Africa, she photographed tribal people and sold many photos to Rosen Publishing in New York and African Arts magazine at UCLA. Rosen commissioned her to write her first book, Ndebele (1997), which won a prize from the New York Public Library.

When she and Jack returned to Palo Alto in 1996, Betty turned to writing, joining a writing group at Avenidas Senior Center. Using journal entries she had carefully compiled in Africa, she wrote her next two books, Forbidden Friends: Living Under Apartheid (2013) and Academic Gypsies (2016). In the last three years of life, she completed the first draft of a fourth book, which analyzed her artistic perspective and offered more than a hundred photos of her paintings and her published photos.

On December 25, 2019, Betty happily shared a holiday celebration and meal with her family, including her daughter, Karen Paff, and her son, Jonathan Longcore ’67. Two days later, she quietly passed away.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2020

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