In Memoriam—Elizabeth A. “Betty” Ham

Elizabeth Awbrey Ham, known to her many friends as “Betty,” died on December 23, 1995, at the age of 80. During her very productive and purposeful life, she had devoted a great deal of energy to sharing knowledge and compiling information about the geology of Oklahoma. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues and friends, who are legion throughout Oklahoma and the United States and include many throughout the world.

Betty earned a B.S. degree in geology from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, in 1937, and then moved to Norman that year to do graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma. While studying at OU she met William E. Ham, who at that time was an instructor in geology; this meeting, and their subsequent marriage, helped establish her permanent relationship with OU and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Betty received her M.S. degree from OU in 1939.

Betty filled a number of roles and responsibilities during her life. She was a collaborator and co-worker to her husband, a loving and caring family member, and a professional in her own right. She accompanied and assisted Bill during much of his field studies and trips throughout the world. Bill was an eminent geologist and professor who worked 29 years for the OGS, until his untimely death in 1970. Betty knew, and was loved by, all of her husband’s professional colleagues.

Family was most important to Betty. She and Bill raised three sons, of whom Betty spoke often and proudly. She always talked with her friends and colleagues about the activities and achievements of their sons and their families. Through her loving words and descriptions we were able to follow the growth and development of her family members, whether they were here in Norman or far away.

She was an accomplished and gifted professional. With a master’s degree in geology, Betty rejoined the work force in 1970 by working as a library assistant in OU’s Geology and Geophysics Library. She then took the job of editorial assistant at the Oklahoma Geological Survey in 1971, and was promoted to associate editor in 1977. At the Oklahoma Geological Survey she was perfectly suited to integrate her geology background with her love of writing and editing. She compiled an excellent and comprehensive series of bibliographies of Oklahoma geology (OGS Special Publications 81-5, 92-2, and 90-4), a catalog of OGS publications (SP 85-3) and a catalog of OU geology theses and dissertations (SP 79-2), and wrote a warm and insightful book, A History of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1908–1983 (SP 83-2). She expanded her duties to become the Survey’s first public information officer in 1980. During her career, she was an active member of the OU Geology Wives and the Association of Earth Science Editors. Betty retired from her professional career in 1989, but she continued her interest in and contact with geology and geologists in Oklahoma and throughout the world.

And so, all of us—her family, friends, and colleagues—will miss her greatly.

—Kenneth S. Johnson
Reprinted in part from Oklahoma Geology Notes, Oklahoma Geological Survey, Vol. 56, No. 2, April 1996.