Human Resources sent the following message to the campus community on Jan. 12, 2024. – Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write to share sad news that Betta Marie Labanish, administrative assistant at William & Mary Law School, passed away on January 6, a month shy of her 35-year anniversary with the university.

Betta began her W&M career in February 1989 with a position as secretary in the law library. She served the law library for 30 years before accepting the position with the law school administration, which offered every student, visitor, and staff member the opportunity to interact with her as they entered the building each day.

“Hiring Betta was the best decision I made in my 40-year career,” said former Law Library Director James Heller. “Four feet 10 inches tall and barely 100 pounds, Betta had the heart of a giant. No, make that several giants.”

Law School Dean A. Benjamin Spencer also noted Betta’s impact on countless students, faculty members and staff. “Her tireless work on behalf of others will endure as a testament to the values of compassion, dedication, and integrity that she exemplified daily,” he said.

With a passion for volunteerism, Betta served several organizations, including Professional Secretaries International, where she sat on the Service Education Committee, and as vice regent of the Catholic Daughters of America. She also devoted much of her time helping seniors and individuals with intellectual and developmental challenges. More information about her life can be found in Betta’s obituary.

Betta’s service was recognized when she was nominated for William & Mary’s Values in Action award. Nominators referred to her as “the backbone of the law school” and “a positive light” who “greets all law students with a smile and makes the atmosphere around the law school brighter.”

Services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 13, at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, 114 Palace Lane, Williamsburg. Interment will follow at Williamsburg Memorial Park, 130 King William Drive.

Betta will further be honored here at William & Mary from noon-12:45 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18, in the Wolf Law Library’s Chappell Reading Room, when W&M community members are invited to offer reflections in a special memorial celebration. The celebration will continue until 2 p.m. in the Law School Lobby for additional tributes and musical selections.

Donations in Betta’s memory may be made to William & Mary Law School’s Public Service Fund at Postal mailed donations may be sent to William & Mary Law School, P.O. Box 3527, Williamsburg, VA  23187-3527, noting the contribution is for the Public Service Fund in Betta’s memory.  Memorial contributions also may be made to organizations of your choice.

My sincere condolences to Betta’s loved ones and colleagues, as well as the students whose lives she touched in her many decades of service here at William & Mary.


Tawanda Johnson