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Honouring Betty I. Roots

Image of Dr. Betty I. Roots
Professor Betty I. Roots, a Founding Director of The Roberta Bondar Foundation

Brilliant. Wise. Fearless.

We nicknamed her “Intrepid“.
Because she was. What her middle initial represented to us.
A Scientist to her cellular level, Betty hooked lake trout with lumbricus terrestris, sliced glia cell sections with a diamond microtome, oversaw transmission electron microscope constructions, walked children to compost heaps to explore its range of busy decomposers, enjoyed fine logical puzzles and intricate shaggy dog stories, ensured our every word written for ‘the child or layman’ misrepresented no branch of Science, and could sautė sliced Calvatia Gigantea puffball while entertaining us with its taxonomic evolution.

Informed. Witty. Droll.

She attended every plant and animal that crossed her path. Your bouquet of flowers. The vole beneath autumn leaves. She missed nothing. She knew their families. Right back to each Phylum.

Betty could shape, sharpen, or shorten any document you gave her for comment, speaking as she thought – each word carefully, precisely chosen – yet unable to prevent her eyes from signalling an imminent punchline. She was not only the first woman University of Toronto Zoology Chair but also the first Chair with a Star Wars X-Wing fighter model suspended above her desk. At visitor’s eye level.

Loving. Far-seeing.

She understood how to apply Champagne. She carried it, chilled, to friends and colleagues to celebrate milestones in their Life’s journey and to salute their journey’s end with grieving friends and family.

We are grateful for Intrepid’s role in our lives and the work of this Foundation as Esprit directeur cheering us on, sharing her expertise, her environmental passions and her command of detail in everything she touched. We may miss her weekly meetings but we will continue forward with her lasting, evergreen guidance.


You can make a donation to honour Dr. Roots’ memory, here.

Image of three women in matching polo shirts
Dr. Roberta Bondar, Professor Betty I. Roots, Professor Bonnie Patterson