Published September 25, 2017
Elizabeth “Betty” Capaldi Phillips, who became the highest-ranking woman in the history of UB when she was named provost in 2000, died Sept. 23 at her home in Gainesville, Florida, after battling brain cancer for the past year. She was 72.
A psychologist whose studied motivation and learning, Phillips came to UB from the University of Florida, where she had been a faculty member since 1988 and provost from 1996-99.
During her tenure as UB provost, the university increased the number of tenure/tenure track positions, increased federal research funding by 28 percent over the previous year, and revived the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Phillips also maintained an active research lab — her work at the time focused on incentives and preference learning — in addition to her duties as UB’s chief academic officer.
She left UB in 2003 to become vice chancellor and chief of staff for then-SUNY Chancellor Robert L. King. After serving for three years as the second-ranking administrator in SUNY, she joined Arizona State University in 2006 as provost, a job in which she served for seven years. She left the ASU provost’s office in 2013 to return teaching and research, and hosted a cooking show on Arizona PBS called “Eating Psychology with Betty,” which explored how biological, social and learned behaviors can affect how we interact with food.
In 2012 she married Win Phillips, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida.
Phillips, a twin, was born in New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester and a doctorate in experimental psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.
She contributed more than 65 chapters and articles to scientific literature, co-authored three editions of an introductory psychology textbook, and edited two books on the psychology of eating.
She was a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society — she served as president from 2000-01 — and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.