The Conway staff and faculty were shocked and deeply saddened to hear that Elizabeth Farnsworth passed away at the end of October. We held back on sharing this news until the New England Wild Flower Society, to which Elizabeth contributed enormously, made the announcement. To know Elizabeth Farnsworth was to love and respect her. She was enthusiastic, brilliant, and uncommonly generous, and we were so fortunate to have called her our teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. The Conway community joins many colleagues and friends in mourning the loss of this extraordinary woman.
At Conway, we knew Elizabeth in many roles over the years – as a Master Teacher, Conservation Biology adjunct faculty member, critic for student project presentations, speaker, donor, and workshop presenter. We consulted her beautiful botanical illustrations in Flora Novae Angliae, or Flora of New England, and read her descriptions of ferns in the Peterson Field Guide to Ferns (Elizabeth was co-author) and flowers in Wildflowers of New England (to which she contributed) on the shelves of our library. We researched plants in GoBotany, the online interactive key to all of the plants of New England that she helped to develop.
Elizabeth taught Conway students to observe the world closely. She helped many aspiring designers and planners to hone their observational skills in reading the landscape (encouraging students to view every site visit as a “treasure hunt” of sorts), and taught botanical illustration as a tool to get to know plants intimately (one of her secrets to sketching with confidence: “Overlay confident lines that may reflect corrections, but don’t be bashful!! Life is short!”)
As Kate Cholakis ’11 said this week of Elizabeth, “her contributions to this world are enormous and far-reaching, and what hurts the most is how much more she had to give. I’ve never met someone as generous, spirited, professional, fun, and infectiously optimistic in my life…We all need to be more like Elizabeth, even if no one can ever replicate her spirit.”
A memorial celebration of Elizabeth’s life is being planned in western Massachusetts for the near future. For further information on developments, please check the.
Image at top: Elizabeth Farnsworth (in white shirt) examines a map with students during a field work session. Photo: Laura Rissolo ’11