Lisbeth (Betsy) Justice, ’70, MA ’83, Ph.D. ’08

A New Jersey native found her home in Kent and dedicated her life to creating a strong, supportive community for all.

As a triple alumna, Betsy Justice has deep ties to Kent State with decades worth of experiences. Born and raised in New Jersey, something about Kent, Ohio, and the people here captured her heart. She remains connected to the university as a part-time faculty member teaching psychology courses, but the majority of her time and focus is devoted to LoveLight, Inc., a nonprofit that she and two others founded in 1995. Since its founding, LoveLight has provided more than 100,000 meals to children in lower-income communities in Portage County, particularly during the summer when there is no access to free school lunches. The organization also offers summer programming and had a licensed after school care from for children ages 5-14 in 2007 and 2008. Over the past 28 years, Betsy has accomplished a great deal through LoveLight, and now she has her sights set on her biggest undertaking yet - a model intergenerational child development and lifelong learning center. The STAR (Service, Teaching, Advocacy and Research) Institute and its key program, STARCHILD, represent the culmination of Betsy’s life’s work and the immediate and future benefits that LoveLight can contribute to the community and region. 

KSU: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
LJ: Perfect happiness, to me, is spending quality time with family and friends, including sharing delicious food prepared by loving hands and hearts. It is the joy of making a positive contribution to someone's life and seeing them blossom, the excitement of creating, communing with nature, the magic of fireworks, hot air balloons and the lights of fireflies as they gracefully rise up from the grass. Happiness is a conscious choice as well as the byproduct of gratitude and appreciation.

KSU: What is your favorite trait in others?
LJ: I will list a collection of related traits: positive mental attitude, altruism, caring heart, kindness, unconditional love, honesty, appreciation, open-mindedness/eagerness to learn and good sense of humor.

KSU: What trait about yourself do you like least?
LJ: Traits that are usually considered positive can sometimes become negative in particular circumstances or when taken too far, so I would say overreactivity or being too concerned about things that in the larger scheme of things are not all that significant, and sometimes being so focused that I become oblivious to other things needing my attention.

KSU: Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
LJ: My life is like a tapestry to which a multitude of people have contributed. Certainly my father, who shared his love of life and belief in the value of education, introduced me to a world beyond my immediate neighborhood, including working at Camp Hope as well as a nutrition program for children living in poverty. He was instrumental in encouraging my learning, both formally and informally, e.g. through gifts such as books, a microscope and an aquarium. My mother, who modeled the attribute of curiosity and such virtues as caring/nurturing, honesty and devotion to family as she and my dad raised five children. My husband of 47+ years who enabled me to "try to save the world" as he "kept the home fires burning." My children, my students and a host of mentor-friends.

KSU: What is your favorite Kent State memory?
LJ: As a three-time graduate of Kent State, there are many memories collected over the years. Going to the "flicks" (movies on campus) on the weekends as an undergrad, learning both in and outside the classroom, expanding my horizons as I met new people and was exposed to various perspectives, playing pingpong in the basement of Lowry Hall, which was a women's dorm at the time, meeting with my statistics study group on Friday evenings which helped serve my social as well as academic needs as a Ph.D. student, and of course, sliding down the snow-covered hill on front campus at night, using trays we borrowed from the cafeteria.

KSU: What is your favorite journey?
LJ: This is a difficult question to answer. How do I choose among my journey as a learner, my spiritual development journey, my journey as a community activist and my journey as a wife and mother?! I'm not even going to try, and in reality, these journeys are all woven together.

KSU: What is your guilty pleasure?
LJ: One of my guilty food pleasures is a DeBrand's ice cream sundae topped with chocolate and raspberry sauce. I would have to say reading a compelling book when there are other things that need to be done or when I should have gone to bed an hour ago.

KSU: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
LJ: Raising three wonderful children and supporting the well-being of my grandchildren is very important to me, but I don't know how much credit I can claim for that. Creating several important programs during my time at the Community Action Council of Portage County and with LoveLight, Inc. is a source of satisfaction. My hope is that my greatest achievement is yet to come–the creation of an innovative, model intergenerational child development and lifelong learning center that, when not in session, will provide other programs and services for the community. On a personal level, this project represents the culmination of decades of learning both within and outside the formal education system. In addition to its other benefits, STARCHILD (Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Research Center for Human Integration, Learning, and Development) will offer the opportunity for Kent State students to gain valuable experience to complement their studies. This property will also serve as a permanent home for LoveLight, Inc., the nonprofit for which I serve as director, and represent what can be achieved when the community, both near and far, work together in a spirit of love. 

KSU: If you could come back as one person, who would it be and why?
LJ: Probably myself, if I could come back with the knowledge, experience, and understanding I have acquired during this lifetime.

KSU: What part of your college experience most formed who you are today?LJ: Many experiences have influenced who I am today, but I will select something from each of the times I pursued a degree from KSU. As an undergraduate, when I was working on a dual degree in elementary and secondary education, Kent had a program called TED, Teaching the Educationally Disadvantaged, in which I participated. When I was a master's student in the Applied Sociology program, an internship at the Sun Center, a holistic learning center in Akron and Kent State's University Year for Action (similar to a VISTA program) both had major influences on my career and life path. Finally, working on my dissertation and teaching at Kent as I pursued a Ph.D. in educational psychology also were important contributors to who I am today.

POSTED: Thursday, March 30, 2023 03:02 PM
Updated: Monday, April 3, 2023 03:23 PM