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Betti Cuddy

Photo of Betti Cuddy
Categories: 2011 Alumnae, Community Organizing, Education, Philanthropy


Betty Jane Puckett (later spelling her name Betti) was born July 21, 1924, in O’Neill, Neb., to Fay and Nellie Puckett, grew up in Nebraska and earned a liberal arts degree from Doan University. The consummate educator, Betti started out teaching high school biology, English and Spanish. In the early 1940s, she pulled up her Nebraska roots and moved to Seattle to take on a new career in banking at the Bank of California. It was while living in Seattle, that she met the love of her life Alaska attorney Dan Cuddy, on a blind date, and that blind date wove into a marriage that lasted 62 years – from 1948 until her death in 2010. The Cuddys spent their honeymoon on the new Alaska Highway making their way home.

Betti’s community leadership in Alaska began in the 1950s when she was a young mother, and she volunteered as a Girl Scout leader and secretary/treasurer of the Anchorage Women’s Club. She then held a seat on the organizational committee for what became Alaska Pacific University.

An advocate for well rounded education, Betti organized the Treasures of Sight and Sound (TOSS) in the 1960s. TOSS was the self-funded predecessor to the Community Schools Program, which paved the way for local theater productions. For almost six decades, Anchorage children who’ve turned a cartwheel, played an instrument, sang a song or acted out a scene on stage can thank Betti Cuddy for the chance to do so. She and the program received a Gold Pan Award from the Greater Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in 1972. “I just thought the schools should be teaching more than the ‘three Rs’,” Betti said.  After Community Schools took over from TOSS, Betti became a prolific patron of the Anchorage arts, especially the theater. She became a board member for the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and that group’s Symphony Committee.

During the late 1970s, Betti sat on the State Board of Education, and continued to be a prolific patron of Anchorage arts, especially the theater. She served as a board member of Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and that group’s Symphony Committee. A lifetime member or the Anchorage Women’s Club, she helped form the organization’s FREE Committee, a grass-roots women’s only political advocacy effort in the 1970s. Cuddy was named honorary chairwoman of the YWCA Anchorage Academy of Woman Achievers. At the university level, Betti played a major role in the renovation of the Lucy Cuddy Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and helped develop a renewed focus for the university’s culinary arts and hospitality programs through remodeling the facility and retooling the curriculum. “She was an ardent supporter of UAA’s Lucy Cuddy Hall and a tremendous fan of the Culinary Arts, Hospitality, Dietetics and Nutrition Program,” said Tim Doebler, the program’s UAA Director. “She will be greatly missed and her kindness will always be remembered. This program and facility would not be what it is today if it hadn’t been for her. I feel like I’ve lost a co-worker.”

In her most recent years, Betti Cuddy was a supporter of the Cuddy Family Midtown Park near the Loussac Library in Anchorage. When completed, the park will include a covered stage and seating area for outdoor theatrical venues, amenities Betti felt were important to encourage community performances. In honor of her efforts as a supporter, a landscaped area of the park was designated “Betti’s garden.” On Aug. 16, 2001, one of Cuddy’s granddaughters was killed by a drunk driver. In the aftermath, Cuddy devoted herself to battling alcohol abuse by facilitating communication between parents and children on the subject. Above all of Betti Cuddy’s community activities, however, she considered her most important role was as a wife to Dan, and mother to their six children: Betsy (David) Lawer, David (Kathy) Cuddy, Gretchen Cuddy, Jane (Gary) Klopfer, Lucy (Mark) Mahan, and Laurel (Fred) Stutzer.

Many believed Betti’s greatest strength was her unusual ability to organize people and get them moving in the same direction. She consistently displayed this ability throughout a lifetime of service in Alaska, and she instilled her views on community service in all her children.

Betti Cuddy impressed everyone with initiative and a take-action approach to address problems or fill needs she witnessed in the community. When she saw something she thought needed to be done, she did something about it. Betti was always reluctant to “toot her own horn.” But her forthrightness and willingness to sacrifice her own time and money provided a great example of community involvement to countless women.


Induction ceremony acceptance speech

References – Obituary — Obituary