My Friend George Betts

My Friend George Betts

 
 
Yesterday, we lost a very dear human being whom I was honored to call my friend. I met George Betts in the late 1970s through our work with the Colorado Association for Gifted/Talented. But I really got to know him when we were both invited to Anchorage, Alaska in the early 1980s. We arrived a day early, and George talked me into exploring the Matanuska Glacier. He had led many Outward Bound experiences, so I trusted him. The glacier was melting (global warming) and we were on dangerous terrain.  At one point, George told me to back up slowly; from his vantage point, he could see that the snow bank I was standing on was hollowed out underneath and could cave in at any moment. The highlight of the excursion was when George started sinking into mud that behaved like quicksand, and I had to pull him out. We considered ourselves lucky to have survived. The trip bonded us as lifelong friends. Our philosophies bonded us professionally.
 
We shared the perspective that giftedness is who you are, not what you do. We were on social-emotional panels at NAGC, and we delivered two joint keynote addresses in Colorado in 2017. At the time, George was president of NAGC, bringing his whole child initiative to the organization. We presented on “Celebrating the Whole Gifted Child” at the Beyond Giftedness conference.  George’s first slide was on his brilliant Autonomous Learner Model.
 
“Autonomous learners perceive learning and living as two main components of on-going development of potential in the cognitive, emotional, social and physical domains. Motivation comes from within, skills are internalized, and passions are the paths of their journeys. Autonomous Learners are never satisfied, for they perceive their needs for a nourishing life and the needs of society.”  
(Betts, Betts, Kapushion, & Carey, 2014)
 
I loved George’s view that motivation comes from within, from the passions of the individual. A few nights ago, I watched Michele Tafoya interview Tony Gonzales, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Tony said, “You have to really love the game. And then there’s no need for hard work.” He was echoing George’s philosophy. 
 
In 1977, George created a wonderful two-week summer camp for gifted children at the University of Northern California. The Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) is still going strong. Kids glow when they talk about the experience. So child-centered, George made it great fun.
 
George deeply loved his family and he really loved gifted education. He dedicated his life to enhancing our understanding of the gifted. A lifelong learner himself, George never stopped learning, growing, contributing, being excited with life. In his last slide, he invited all of us to become lifelong learners.
 
“A lifelong learner is one
who loves the moment,
seeks truth, friendship,
knowledge and wisdom.
This person accepts self and others,
and realizes the chance to make this a better world.
A lifelong learner discovers new paths 
for growth, joy, 
knowledge and friendship.
the journey begins today…”
               (Betts 2003)
 
We will miss you, George.