When Betsy Meyerhoff Rosenbaum graduated from Emory & Henry in 1976 there was one thing she knew: she did NOT want to work inside.
She was on track for a career in coaching and teaching, but she just couldn’t stand the thought of being inside all day – especially with a room full of young people who didn’t particularly want to be there either! She had always enjoyed the parks and recreation aspect of her physical education degree, so she paired that with her biology minor applied for seasonal work with the U.S Department of the Interior, National Park Service.
As they say, one thing led to another, seasonal jobs led to permanent jobs and after 10 years she transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a better opportunity to work with wildlife and natural resources. Betsy has just recently retired from her dream job after 25 years as a federal wildlife officer (game warden).
It was a dream to work outdoors and she says it may have been in her genetic makeup: her grandfather was a naturalist and a photographer who spent a lot of time outside and no doubt inspired her to think of the great outdoors. Her work has taken her to positions in New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia – an opportunity to live and work in some very unique places.
There weren’t a lot of women in this field in 1976, but Betsy said she came along looking for this job at the perfect moment. “In the mid-1970s equality in hiring was a big issue, so women got an extra point on the Equal Employment Opportunity scale. It also didn’t hurt that it was during the United States Bicentennial so there were extra funds allotted for hiring in national parks.”
She says it was also a great time in terms of the fact that the country was beginning to take its environmental responsibilities seriously. The endangered species act, the wilderness act, better governance of air and water pollution – all these things were happening in the early to mid-70s. “It was an awakening for an industrial nation. We had succeeded as a country – but we were going to ruin the future if we didn’t take better care of our natural resources.”
Betsy thinks as a nation we are doing better – even if we continue to face big issues. But she is encouraged by how far we’ve come since she started this work in the 1970s. And she is buoyed by all we can learn from nature and animals if we will simply pay attention. She tells a great story of spending two summers in Canada trapping and banding geese and ducks. “The second summer I caught the same duck, on the same pond, on the exact same day!”
She may not have ended up a coach, but she credits her Phys Ed background and her participation in sports at E&H for helping her throughout her career. Her job as a ranger required her to be physically fit, strong enough to do search and rescue, fighting forest fires, cross country ski patrol, and have the ability to train for law enforcement certification – all of which she felt prepared for after her involvement in athletics at E&H. She also specifically credited Coach Eleanor Hutton for encouraging a healthy lifestyle beyond the volleyball and basketball court. “Coach Hutton taught us that we had to have a broader experience in sports beyond a team sport because we wouldn’t always have the opportunity to play on a team. So she encouraged us to play tennis and golf and other individual sports – sports for a lifetime.”
Betsy may be officially retired, but we doubt she’ll retire from being outside. Her job simply gave her a gainful outlet for what she loves naturally. “It was like getting paid to do your hobby.”