The UF Center for Smell and Taste is extremely sad to announce the death of Dr. Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Capaldi Phillips, who passed away September 23 at her home here in Gainesville. While serving as Provost at the University of Florida, Betty was responsible for creating the Center for Smell and Taste as a University-wide center in 1998. She warmly received the idea of creating a broad, campus-wide interdisciplinary center focused on fostering discovery, application, and education in the chemical senses when posed to her by the founding Director, Dr. Barry Ache. She also instituted a modest funding line to assure the ability of the Center to continue its mission into the future, and helped encourage the late Dr. William Luttge, then Director of the McKnight Brain Institute, to provide a physical home for the Center, which shared similar broad, campus-wide visions for their respective missions.
Betty was also one of the Center’s founding members, given her long-standing interest in chemical senses research as an experimental psychologist studying the effects of experience on food preferences and aversions. Betty was expert in both classic learning theory and the chemical senses, which allowed her to make pioneering contributions to understanding how we learn to like and dislike foods. She contributed more than 65 articles and book chapters on food preferences and aversions to the scientific literature in addition to co-authoring an introductory psychology textbook and editing two books on the psychology of eating. Her research interests in more recent years focused more on the psychology of eating. While serving as the Provost of Arizona State University she hosted a popular TV show on Arizona PBS called ‘Eating Psychology with Betty’, which took her scientific interest in how and why we interact with food directly to the public.
Betty’s impressive, nationally- and internationally-recognized scientific accomplishments led to her being elected to serve as the President of the Association of Psychological Sciences from 1999-2000, as well as a fellow in the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Midwestern Psychological Association.
Betty was a close friend and colleague of Dr. Linda Bartoshuk, a Center member in Food Science, where Betty more recently held an adjunct appointment. Linda fondly recalls a visit to UF when Betty first became Provost. Linda asked Betty why she wanted to work in administration and Betty told her that the statistical and scientific skills from behavioral science allowed her to analyze and solve important problems in the way universities work and that gave her enormous pleasure.
Betty is survived by her husband, Dr. Win Phillips, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering here at UF, who currently serves as Executive Chief of Staff for President Fuchs.
As great friend and supporter of the Center for Smell and Taste, and as a nationally- and internationally-recognized chemical senses researcher, Betty will indeed be missed… as will her quick, infectious laugh.
By Barry W. Ache, Ph.D.
Dr. Ache is a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and was the director of the UFCST from its founding until 2016.