Alumni Hall of Fame
Elizabeth L. Aitken
The Change Artist
One could say Elizabeth Aitken, affectionately known to
family and friends as “Bette”, is just a girl from a small town in St. Louis,
Missouri who has made a big impact. Born to a stay-at-home mother and an
educator father, in 1955, Elizabeth’s family moved to Orange County when she
was a young girl. Years later, she
became a member of the first graduating class of Bolsa Grande High School in
Garden Grove. In 1960, she entered Santa Ana College. “It was free and close to
our home,” says Elizabeth. “Plus, Wylie was going there,” she says about her
husband, a philanthropist, attorney and founding partner of Aitken, Aitken and
Cohn Trial Lawyers.
Though the tuition may have been complimentary in the early
1960’s when Elizabeth registered at SAC, the education she received there has
been invaluable. “Santa Ana College is special in my life,” says Elizabeth. “It
had extremely good teachers who were fascinating to listen to and it was just a
wonderful environment overall.”
At SAC, in addition to being courted by her future husband,
the former homecoming princess, Las Meninas president, student council leader, and
arts major flirted with the notion of becoming an educator like her father. After
graduating in 1963, and transferring to Cal State Fullerton, Elizabeth made the
commitment official. “I wanted to make a difference and I thought it would be
fun to educate children, to give them a philosophy on life,” says Elizabeth.
She practiced her passion teaching for several years, before retiring to devote
her time to raise her three children, Darren, Christopher and Ashleigh. It’s
worth noting that Elizabeth’s choice to pass on life lessons to her children
paid off, with all three of her children following in their father’s footsteps
to become litigators.
In her years as a stay-at-home parent, Elizabeth was also a member
of the civic community. Today, she remains a respected, generous and energetic
member of the arts, education, health and philanthropic communities in Orange
County. Known for her formidable leadership, engaging personality, and infectious
enthusiasm, Elizabeth’s civic imprint and impact can be found all across Orange
County, and beyond.
Recognized by Senator Diane Feinstein and Congresswoman Loretta
Sanchez for her public service, Elizabeth is a champion of women’s issues,
serving in a leadership capacity at Laura’s House, a Ladera Ranch-based
organization that offers shelter and support services to victims of domestic
violence. “If I can do something for somebody, it makes me feel good,”
says Elizabeth on the special place Laura’s House has in her life, and why she
joined their efforts to change lives. “I feel like I’m doing something very
necessary for God’s work.” In 2007, Laura’s House honored Elizabeth with the
“Women of the Year” award.
A patron and staunch supporter of the arts, Elizabeth is a member
of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ “Angels of the Arts”, and served as the
Gala Chair for Anaheim’s Muzeo. She also co-chaired the committee that oversaw
the opening of the Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University and played
an integral role in creating the Bette and Wylie Aitken Arts Plaza at Chapman.
Elizabeth currently sits on the Board of Trustees for the South Coast Repertory
Theatre, where she is vice president of community relations. In addition, she’s
served on the theatre’s Gala committee for more than 15 years. She is also on
the Board of Directors of Anaheim’s Ovation award-winning theatre, The Chance
Theatre, which houses the Bette Aitken Theatre Arts Center.
An educator at heart, Elizabeth may no longer teach in the
classroom, but she continues to demonstrate the lifelong lesson of giving back.
Her education-related charity endeavors includes being a dedicated member of
Chapman University’s philanthropic group, “Women of Chapman”, which has given
upwards of $6.25 million in gifts to
support Chapman University over its four-decade history.
other benevolent activities includes support of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric
Aids Foundation “World of Heroes” and Paint Your Heart Out Anaheim.
Elizabeth did not choose to become an artist after receiving her Associates of
Arts degree from Santa Ana College, she has most definitely achieved the role
of change artist.