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Starfish being held at the REEF touch tank

Making Waves

Betty Elings Wells's H’10 latest gifts put nature in the hands of the community

Inspired by her family’s lifelong affinity for the outdoors, Betty Elings Wells H’10 has made a pair of gifts to campus that support environmental education, and the environment itself.

Betty, a UC Santa Barbara Foundation trustee, real estate investor and philanthropist, has made the largest gift to the REEF in campus history to create the Betty Wells Marine Science Outreach Initiative at the interactive instructional touch-tank facility run by UC Santa Barbara’s renowned Marine Science Institute (MSI). She made a separate, significant donation to fund a public trail system at North Campus Open Space (NCOS).

Betty Elings Wells H'10
Trustee Betty Elings Wells H’10 and family

“I have three little grandchildren that live here — they’re 7, 5 and 3 — and three who live in Boulder, Colorado that are 16, 13 and 11, who all like to be out walking, out at the beach and all of that. Whenever possible, our family will do those activities,” Betty said. “I’ve been an environmentalist all my life and contributed to Elings Park to help preserve open spaces for the future. I believe in open spaces where people can get out and enjoy nature. I know I’ll be out there with the grandkids, and that’s why I gave that gift [to NCOS]. I went by emotion. And I thought it looked like a really good cause. I want to be sure that in generations to come, there will be open space.” 

Making Waves Betty Elings Wells’s H’10 latest gifts put nature in the hands of the community At the REEF (formally known as the Research Experience and Education Facility), a popular spot for families and the general public, Betty’s generosity will fund a myriad of infrastructure improvements. Her gift also will enable new outreach and education opportunities for thousands of students every year by way of MSI’s robust outreach programs, which teach some 20,000 students annually about the diversity of marine life and ocean environments. 

“I hope this gift will help provide a better experience for all the children that go to the REEF, different things for kids to feel and touch and even more great teaching about the oceans,” Betty said. “The oceans are so important to us all, and they are going to be even more important in the future.” 

The same could be said for open spaces on land. UC Santa Barbara’s North Campus Open Space is a 136-acre parcel in the midst of an extensive ecological restoration — for 50 years the site was home to a golf course — that will ultimately open to the public coastal habitat and trails extending three miles along the Ellwood Devereux coast by connecting several existing preserved properties. 

Betty’s leadership and impact at UCSB extends far beyond philanthropy. Her longtime volunteer role with the Faculty Women’s Club, a campus support network now known as the Shoreliners, includes two terms as president and four years as treasurer. Her involvement in the group ultimately inspired her to support the renovation of the former Faculty Club (now The Club & Guest House, where both a pavilion and a terrace bear her name). She also supports and serves as a mentor to student philanthropy group UCSB First. In this way, her generosity will be felt for generations to come.