Forever Grateful: Honoring The Plevan Family

Isaac Flater, Marketing Specialist

This fall, the SALT Center is honored to award Bettina “Betsy” Plevan (posthumously) and her husband Kenneth Plevan our Director’s Award, in recognition of their immeasurable impact on the SALT Center, the University of Arizona, and the lives of countless others throughout our community. Since their son, Jeffrey, enrolled in the SALT Center in 1996, they have been among our most cherished friends and supporters.

As a toddler, Jeff was diagnosed with a language processing disorder, and few believed that he would ever flourish in an academic setting. However, with early interventions, specialized schooling, a supportive faith community, and the constant encouragement of his family, Jeff grew to be a capable and passionate student and a kind and ambitious young man. Looking back on his life, his parents once said, “Jeff didn’t look at the world as a series of limitations. He looked at the world as a series of endless possibilities.”

Portrait photo of Betsy and Kenneth Plevan

After high school, attracted by the support offered through the SALT Center and the opportunity to attend a college with “big time sports,” Jeff enrolled in the University of Arizona, successfully earning a B.A. in Judaic Studies in December of 2000.

Ken remarked, “We, as a family, were extremely grateful to Arizona for what it offered Jeffrey and allowed him to have: a true college experience in a big university with a tremendous amount of diversity and a serious support program that allowed him to thrive and graduate from college. We are very forever grateful for that.”

After graduation, Jeff spent several years working at the American Jewish Historical Society then went on to earn a master’s degree in Judaic Studies and Jewish Communal Service from Gratz College. In 2010, Jeff got his dream job as a development associate for Hillel at Hunter College.

Despite living far from Tucson, Jeff never lost his Bear Down spirit, regularly travelling back to Arizona for homecoming events and serving on the Board and then as President of the New York City chapter of the University of Arizona Alumni Association.

Shortly after returning home from a trip to Israel in the spring of 2013, Jeff tragically passed away unexpectedly at the age of 36. To honor his life, his parents generously endowed the annual Jeffrey B. Plevan Memorial Lectureship in Israel Studies and the Jeffrey B. Plevan Chair in Israel Studies at the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies.

A tribute to the Plevan family

In October of 2021, we were also saddened to learn of Betsy’s passing, after a grueling battle with leukemia. Betsy was a highly respected trial and appellate attorney and former president of the New York City Bar Association. She was known as a highly driven and competitive leader and used these traits to help advance opportunities for women in the legal profession.

Those who knew her best say that Betsy also had a special gift for making people feel heard and cared about on a very individual level and that she always made time for people in need.

For Betsy’s friends and family, a hug was not just a casual greeting, it was how she let you know you were important to her. A bear hug from Betsy was not easily forgotten.

Earlier this spring, we were honored to join with Ken Plevan and members of the university community at a special gathering at the Women’s Plaza of Honor to celebrate Betsy’s life and unveil a special paver engraved with her name. The plaza’s mission is to publicly and permanently celebrate women who have made significant contributions to the history of Arizona or have enriched the lives of others. Betsy is truly deserving of this honor. Next time you are on campus, we invite you to take a few minutes to visit the beautiful memorial, to rest, and to remember Betsy and the many remarkable women recognized in that special place.

As we approach the first anniversary of Betsy’s passing, we continue to extend our deepest sympathies to Ken and the other members of the Plevan family. Betsy was a constant advocate and supporter of the SALT Center, and we won’t soon forget her. May her memory be a blessing.