by Megan Milligan and Len Lear
“I am living a life of thanksgiving,” insists Betty Turner, 79, who has lived in Germantown for the past 54 years. And many residents of Northwest Philadelphia are very thankful for the countless contributions by Ms. Turner to the community over several decades.
Germantown United Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that promotes the revitalization of Germantown’s business corridors, recently acknowledged this fact by making Turner one of its two inaugural recipients of the Pillar of the Community award. (The other was Ruth Seeley, another long-time community activist in Germantown.)
“With this award,” said a spokesman for the nonprofit, “Germantown United acknowledges those among us who have significantly contributed to the betterment of our community … Betty’s commitment to the betterment of her community is impressive…”
Turner, who was also appointed last month to the La Salle University President’s Community Advisory Council, said upon receiving the award, “I am astonished and proud, honored, humbled and very appreciative to Germantown United CDC for this community service recognition award.” She has won several other awards, such as a Faculty Leadership and Development Award (1983) from Antioch University and a Community Service Award from Germantown Friends School (2010), as well as others.
The Germantown activist was born and raised in Lancaster, PA, with a few years spent in Coatesville. She raised five children in Germantown and also has eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild, Christopher Emmanuel Hogue, of Junction City, Kansas, a first-year cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
After earning a B.A. in Human Services and an M.A. in Administration on the Philadelphia campus of Antioch University (the main campus is in Yellow Springs, Ohio), she taught at Antioch (1977 to 1986), Community College of Philadelphia (1986 to 1989), La Salle University Summer (1990), Chestnut Hill College/Allentown College (1992 to 1995) and Center in the Park (2000 to 2006). She insists, “I have learned as much from my students as they did from me.”
Her many volunteer services include: Co-Founder and President of Germantown Community Connection, a civic organization that promotes Germantown as a place in which to live, work, visit and invest; Commissioner on the Philadelphia Historical Commission; Urban Resources Development Corporation Board member/secretary; Daily News Peoples Editorial Board; Greene Street Friends School Board of Trustees; teacher of classes on community relations and more.
Betty has also worked on several extensive research projects. For example, she was the Project Director and Co-Investigator (2001 to 2003) on a Men’s Health Research study at Center in the Park in Germantown. It was an Afro-centric approach to improving the health and nutrition of older African American Men. And she was the Principal Investigator (2005 to 2006) for Living Well, a research study of physical fitness and nutrition in older adults. It was a project for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During our interview with Ms. Turner, we also asked her the following questions:
What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
I believe it was terminating an employee.
What is the best advice you ever received?
A young man said to me, “You don’t have to say everything you think.”
Which talent that you do not have would you most like to have?
Painting! I love scenery and beautiful combinations of colors on trees in the countryside and in the city. I always feel a sense of wonderment.
What is your most treasured possession?
A picture of my grandparents, who taught me the value of family, hard work, ethics, love for my neighbor and most of all, reverence for God.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right here in Germantown, Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania…right here!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
First of all, I don’t believe there is any spare time. All time matters, but when I relax, I read, mostly mysteries, especially those with a Victorian setting.
What was your greatest accomplishment?
“Making friends and building relationships. Friends are far and wide.”
For more information, visit germantownunitedcdc.org.