EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — USI president Dr. Ronald Rochon announced Betty J. Fordice Rice, founding First Lady of the University, died at her Pennsylvania home Tuesday, January 26.

Betty and her husband, founding president of USI David L. Rice, served together in leadership for 27 years and were married for 69 years until his death on January 15, 2020.

Betty helped plan, design and decorate the University Home. She also helped create the 25-acre Bent Twig Outdoor Learning Environment on the USI campus.

In recognition of her many roles, USI awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in May of 2000, citing her “vision and boundless energy” in building community support for the University. 

President Rochon released the following statement.

She was gracious and extremely kind, as I found her to be every time I had the pleasure of interacting with her. Dr. and Mrs. Rice were the founding first couple of this great University and set the bar in their service to our community.

Mrs. Rochon and I are privileged to follow in their extraordinary footsteps and wish to honor their legacy. The entire University community joins together in paying deepest respects to the Rice family.

Dr. Ronald Rochon

Funeral services are being finalized. 

You can view a gallery of images from Betty’s time at USI here.

(This story was originally published on January 27, 2021)