Dr. Betty van der Smissen, pioneer in the field of outdoor education for more than 50 years, passed away on November 6, 2008 from cancer. Her contributions have influenced outdoor programming, legal liability, research and the accreditation fields. You can read more about her historic contributions at this article from Parks & Recreation Journal and from these video interviews (Interview #1, Interview #2). A list of her extensive publications are available at Amazon.com.

Here is a short list of some of her accomplishments

  • Her early experiences in outdoor programming were with church camps. She was an early member of Christian Camping International.
  • She was the first research chair on the American Camp Association (ACA) national board and served as president. She conducted research on the ACA camp standards that resulted in the first major revision.
  • She worked with the American Association for Health Physical Education & Dance (AAHPERD) outdoor programs beginning with the Council on Outdoor Education.
  • She attended the second meeting, in St. Louis, of what became the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), served on AEE's original bylaws committee, and assisted in the development of the AEE Accreditation Program.
  • Her university leadership with outdoor programs has helped shape the development of outdoor research and programming.
  • She was the first director of the outdoor field campus at the University of Iowa, where she conducted outdoor education programs.
  • Worked with the Stone Valley Outdoor Education Center at Penn State and conducted two national symposia on outdoor research and evaluation.
  • Directed more than 100 theses and dissertations related to outdoor topics.
  • Worked closely with a Japanese doctoral student who became the national leader for outdoor education in Japan.

The Association for Experiential Education had already created a Research Endowment Fund in Betty's name. The goal of the endowment is to provide grants for areas of research involving:

  • outdoor programming in adventure, challenge, and experiential programs
  • organized camping
  • environmental education
  • legal aspects related to  outdoor programming

Research selected will focus on:

  • benefits and outcomes
  • attitudes
  • interests 
  • good practic

Tax deductible contributions can be made to the van der Smissen endowment. You contribution will:

  • Honor the invaluable contributions  Dr.  van der Smissen made to the profession over a lifetime.
  • Emulate her belief in the importance of “giving back” professionally.
  • Demonstrate your belief in the importance of quality outdoor programming to human development.

For information on make a donation, go to the Betty van der Smissen Endowment Fund.