Elizabeth “Betsy” Wood Knapp, a pioneer in online interactive computer software, angel investor, philanthropist and longtime supporter of UCLA and its students, died peacefully in her home in Colorado, with her husband, Cleon “Bud” Knapp, by her side, on June 20.
“Betsy shared her energy and expertise selflessly and helped advance UCLA in monumental and innovative ways,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “We are forever grateful for her partnership and leadership.”
Knapp’s husband, who attended UCLA, introduced her to the campus shortly after they married in 1979. From that point forward her commitment to UCLA and to supporting future Bruin business leaders was unwavering.
The Knapp Foundation, which makes grants in education, medicine and the arts, supported UCLA in substantial ways, including the endowed Betsy Wood Knapp Chair for Innovation and Creativity and UCLA Anderson’s student-run Knapp Venture Competition for excellence in business planning and venture initiation. The Knapp Foundation was also among the founding contributors of Entrepreneurs Hall at the school. In addition, the school’s Knapp Faculty Lounge is named for Betsy and Bud Knapp.
Betsy Knapp held various leadership positions on many UCLA boards and commissions associated with fundraising, faculty recruitment and retention, alumni affairs and UCLA Anderson. Among them, Knapp served as UCLA’s first woman to serve as chair of the UCLA Foundation, a position she held from 2008 to 2010. Knapp was also a member of UCLA Anderson’s board of advisors and the UCLA Technology Development Group’s board of directors.
Knapp was a strong proponent of encouraging women to excel in business and in society, and led by example. At 10th and 20th anniversary celebrations for Women and Philanthropy at UCLA, the group honored Knapp for her commitment to the organization and for her many accomplishments at the university.
A graduate of Wellesley College, where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics, Knapp began her career in the late 1960s working at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Soon after, the accomplished system designer and programmer became a founding member and president of Telmar Communications Corp., a New York City-based company that pioneered online interactive computer access for the media and advertising industries.
Knapp later moved to Los Angeles, where she was senior vice president and director of Knapp Communications, which owned and published Architectural Digest and Bon Appétit, along with a variety of other magazines and books.
As an entrepreneur, she founded or co-founded companies providing technology-based services, video learning programs, TV shows and cookbooks and new media products and innovations. As an angel investor, Knapp supported new technology startups and was part of an informal network of investors who supported emerging companies.
Most recently, Knapp was the founder and chief executive officer of BigPicture Investors LLC, which provides investment capital, management expertise and consulting to startups and early-stage companies.
In addition to her husband, Knapp is survived by two sons, Brian and Aaron; a daughter, Laura; and five grandchildren. Private family services have been planned.