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Betty Edenfield Cogswell, Ph.D ’65


Betty was a long-time resident of Chapel Hill.  She died Saturday, February 16 in the guest cottage at her daughter Amanda Cogswell Kirk’s home in Burlington, where she had lived for the past five years. She was 88.

In addition to Amanda and her granddaughters Elizabeth Sayer Kirk and Katherine Sinclair Kirk, she also leaves her daughter Elizabeth Sophia Cogswell Baskin, son-in-law Steve Baskin and grandson John Samson Baskin, all of Atlanta. She is also survived by her sister Elene Edenfield Bertschi of Cumming, GA.

She was preceded in death by her second husband, UNC anthropologist John Gulick, whom she married in 1984. Her first marriage was to Arthur Cogswell. They were divorced in 1976.

Betty was born in Jacksonville, FL in 1930, the daughter of Vada and James Homer Edenfield, and spent her childhood in Kingsland, GA, where her father served terms as state senator and mayor. She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville in 1948, attended Stephens College in Columbia, MO and graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore in 1952. She received her M.S. degree from North Carolina State University in 1958 and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1965.

Dr. Cogswell joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1960, retiring in 1997 as Associate Professor Emerita, Family Medicine. She was the Director of International Programs and a Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Population Institute in Washington, D.C. She authored several books and published numerous papers in the fields of family medicine and family planning.

For her research, Betty often traveled for weeks at a time in Pakistan, Iran, Kenya and other developing countries — before the existence of mobile phones, GPS or suitcases with wheels. She attended receptions at the palace of the last Shah of Iran before the Islamist Revolution. She was served tea in dirt-floored homes in rural villages where she interviewed women for family planning studies. When she had a summer conference in the former Yugoslavia, she took her young daughters with her behind the Iron Curtain and let them roam the town of Dubrovnik while she was in meetings.

Betty loved to travel all her life. In 1950, she was selected to represent Stephens College at the World Student Council in Madras (Chennai), India, and spent six weeks touring India afterwards. After graduating from Goucher, she sailed for France and spent six months doing graduate work at the University of Grenoble.

Her other great passion was people. Her Chapel Hill house on Elliott Road, where she lived for 35 years, was the scene of many cocktail parties, dinner parties, pool parties and impromptu gatherings around the kitchen table. At her house you might meet anyone from local politicians to international colleagues, artists, activists, archaeologists, musicians, physicians, plumbers and poets.

As her sister Elene says, “She skipped along in life with spirit, always happy as long as she was going somewhere.”