Betty Embser Wattenberg Scholarship Recognizes Service

(Dec. 2016)   By Sandy Rigas – Special to The Daily Reporter

WELLSVILLE – A Wellsville High School senior will have the opportunity to be awarded a scholarship created in memory of the WHS Class of 1966 student voted as “Most Admired.”

The “Betty Embser Wattenberg Community Service Scholarship Fund” honors Elizabeth “Betty” Embser Wattenberg, of Wellsville, who passed away in March. The Scholarship Fund has been established through the Allegany County Area Foundation, Inc. by Betty’s husband, Mark, and son, Brendan, WHS Class of ’02. It will be awarded to a senior aspiring to become a social worker or in pursuit of a career in community service or healthcare related fields.

“This is going to create a legacy for Betty. Each year, when the scholarship is awarded, people will be reminded of who she was and what she did for people,” said Denis Dahlgren, executive director of the Allegany County Area Foundation, Inc.

The WHS Class of 1966 graduate earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY at Buffalo, a master’s degree in community service administration from Alfred University, and a certificate in health care development from Cornell University. Her career in social work spanned the next four decades, dedicated to improving the quality of life of the elderly and advocating for better emergency medical services and health care for rural populations. Initially employed in the 1970s as an aging specialist staff member of the Allegany County Department of Special Services, Betty was appointed director of the Office for the Aging in 1981.

“I can’t think of Betty without thinking of her vision, passion, and quick wit,” said former OFA Director Kim Toot, Wattenberg’s good friend. “She was always inspiring us to think about the big picture, not just the small details, and how we could develop better programs to serve more people. She was a small person with a heart so big she filled the room. For me, she was a great boss, a good teacher. I learned from her actions, her sense of mission, not just her words.”

Betty Wattenberg also worked as an instructor, organizer and advocate beyond Allegany County, as a clinical instructor at UB School of Medicine, coordinator of the Community Oriented Primary Care project at Cuba Memorial Hospital and as founder and president of Rural Health Services, focusing on programs for volunteer personnel of EMS teams. She worked across the Southern Tier and with the New York State Department of Health, developing partnerships and grant initiatives.

Additionally, she served on the boards of both Jones Memorial Hospital and Wellsville Central School.

The idea for the scholarship to honor Betty and her career of service came from Clara Kim, whom Betty had met through the OFA, said Mark Wattenberg. While a medical student at SUNY Buffalo, Kim served a summer internship in Allegany County at the OFA.

“I consider Betty to have had the strongest influence of anyone I have ever known on the doctor I am today,” said Kim. “She just had her finger on the pulse of everything. Her care for people was unparalleled. She could find a way to get even the quietest person to speak volumes, and never stopped thinking about what could be done, and then what more could be done. She always kept it really human.”

While a high school student, Betty participated in numerous activities, including yearbook, the school newspaper, student government, the speech and debate team, dramatics and won first prizes at both the local and county level in the American Legion Speaking Contest. Classmates remember her as “always having a smile on her face” and having “a spirit that just made people feel good about themselves.”  Dahlgren added, “We’d like to see more scholarships like this. Hopefully this will also inspire more people to do the same.”