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Dear NCEE Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that Betsy Brown Ruzzi passed away the morning of October 12, 2022. As many of you know, since 2019, Betsy has been battling a horrendous disease – Stage-4 metastatic breast cancer.

There is so much to say about Betsy professionally, but also about her personally. She has been nothing short of amazing in the last few years since her diagnosis – searching out the best research and trials and pressing for answers when there was little clarity. Where many would have given up, Betsy pushed through with the same attitude and persistence that were a hallmark of her professional work.

Betsy was NCEE! She was with NCEE at its inception, back when it was the fledgling Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy. When NCEE released its first report, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, a young Betsy ran the entire release event herself—a massive affair with an audience of cabinet secretaries, governors, corporate heads, chief state school officers, and reporters. The event – brilliantly produced – marked the start of NCEE’s and Betsy’s influence on public policy.

This was merely the first in a long line of groundbreaking reports and policy efforts Betsy helped launch for NCEE, including the creation of NISL, the National Skill Standards Board, the Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the study and resulting report What Does It Mean to Be College Ready?, the Center on International Education Benchmarking, and many more. To tell the story of NCEE is to tell the story of Betsy’s leadership, drive, and vision. It’s no wonder Marc Tucker has said, “It was my lucky day when Betsy first appeared at my door for her employment interview. She has had a remarkable career… It’s not luck. It is character and intelligence. It’s Betsy.”

Most recently, during her illness, Betsy personally drove the work for one of NCEE’s most important projects: the Maryland Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Education. This work set policy for transforming the education system in Maryland and laid the groundwork for NCEE to help other states and large districts rethink their systems. Much of what NCEE is able to accomplish with our partners today is thanks to Betsy’s influence and networking. Her wide range of advisors, friends, and colleagues has allowed the work we do to expand across the country and the world. NCEE would not be what it is today without her. As Marc also has said: “She has a sixth sense about policy and politics of the kind that cannot be taught and few ever learn. An unerring sense of political strategy, combined with her capacity to earn the trust of key actors has time and again made it possible for us to do the impossible.”

Betsy leaves an incredible legacy, and she will be sorely missed. We have been fortunate over the last couple of years to have Betsy’s continued guiding hand in the Maryland work and on our Board of Trustees.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Betsy’s husband Joe and their kids, Michael and Sara.

Betsy’s full obituary is available here.


Vicki Phillips