Betty Balmer

Friends of Lewis & Clark Remembered

Betty Balmer, a vibrant and integral part of the Lewis & Clark community for more than 60 years, died March 6, 2019, at age 90.

Betty came to the college in fall 1951, when husband Don Balmer became the second faculty member of the young political science department. She and Don had met as students at the University of Washington, where Betty graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in music.

Betty and Don, just 22 and 24, respectively, when they arrived at L&C, immersed themselves in the social, intellectual, and artistic community of Palatine Hill. Their four sons, all born in the 1950s, often accompanied them to college events and concerts.

Betty taught piano lessons from her home studio for more than 50 years; worked with L&C students active in the Mu Phi Epsilon music sorority (now fraternity); and had close relationships with many faculty members and their spouses, administrators, and students.

Betty and Don were an incomparable couple, leading Lewis & Clark’s first “semester in Washington, D.C.” study program in 1965 and first overseas study program to Britain in 1971.

Until the last few years, Betty and Don were regulars at college events. Their son, Dan Balmer BA ’80, is an instructor of jazz guitar and jazz combos in L&C’s music department. A special joy for Betty came in 2014, when her many friends at L&C and beyond raised money for the college to purchase a Steinway grand piano in her honor. At the dedication ceremony, Betty and a duet partner, Betty’s grandson Elliott, and Associate Professor of Music Susan DeWitt Smith performed on the new instrument.

Survivors include sons Tom, Paul, Andy (BS ’79), and Dan. Betty’s beloved husband and partner of 68 years, Don, died in April 2017. The family suggests donations to the Balmer Scholarship Fund at Lewis & Clark.

—Adapted from a tribute written by Tom Balmer.