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Elizabeth Gatbonton (1941-2017): 'She brightened her students' lives'

Concordia mourns the passing of the retired associate professor of education
December 5, 2017

UPDATE: The memorial for Elizabeth Gatbonton will be held on Friday, April 27, 2018, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm, including light refreshments. 

Address: Concordia University Chapel, Loyola Campus, 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, H4B 1R6.

Here is a link to a fuller announcement.

All are welcome! Please feel free to inform others who you believe might wish to attend the memorial.


Faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Education were saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Elizabeth (Beth) Gatbonton, a retired associate professor from the Department of Education. Beth passed away suddenly on November 28 in London, Ontario, while visiting relatives.

Elizabeth (Beth) Gatbonton

Along with her husband, Norman Segalowitz, professor in Concordia’s Department of Psychology, Beth was renowned for her warmth and hospitality to faculty, staff, and students, especially those who were far from home. As Patsy Lightbown, a former colleague and professor emerita, noted, “No appreciation of Beth could overlook her generous hospitality and her spectacular culinary skills.” Although hosting legendary parties was Beth’s delight, her passion was to educate and do research with language teachers and language learners.

Prior to joining Concordia’s TESL Centre (since integrated with the Department of Education) as an assistant professor in Applied Linguistics in 1992, Beth had an extensive career teaching learners of English. She also gained wide experience developing course materials, textbooks, and entire language learning or teaching programs, particularly in places with fewer resources and access to information.

Her work took her to China in the 1980s, Cuba and South Africa in the 1990s, and Labrador in the last five years. Her course materials and syllabi were founded in a deep and firsthand knowledge of language learning and teaching, and she made instant connections with the many language teachers she met in her travels.

Beth spent much of her academic research life developing innovative explanations and teaching approaches for language learning and language teaching. Her 1975 McGill dissertation was one of the first published studies to link speakers’ use of a second language to their feelings of ethnic identity. This insight led to many published research studies with colleagues and students, and inspired similar research around the world.

Together with colleagues, Beth also developed a teaching approach (ACCESS) which was designed to enhance language learners’ speech fluency. This approach combined findings from psychology and accessible teaching techniques and activities, while allowing teachers to be both creative and effective. The ACCESS approach, publications, and activities have been adopted and passed on by countless teachers and materials developers.

No description of Beth would be complete without noting her deep sense of service and loyalty, to Concordia University, to the TESL Centre, the Department of Education, and to her colleagues and students. Beth and Norman have been long-time donors to Concordia, and during her time at Concordia, Beth served as Program Director of the English as a Second Language program, Graduate Program Director, and member of countless departmental, doctoral, and master’s committees.

She was a perpetual booster of Concordia students and faculty, and her colleagues and students responded to her warmth and caring with love and gratitude. Graduate Michael Magid (MA 04) stated: “She was a wonderful and caring supervisor who was a model of what every academic should aspire to become: knowledgeable, honest, competent and caring. She brightened her students' lives and helped them to develop into the best versions of themselves.”  

Another Concordia alum, Nootan Kumar (MA 05), said: “Beth was so much more than a thesis supervisor and professor to me - she was also a mentor, a mother figure, and dear friend. I am deeply grateful to have known her, both academically and personally.”

Beth will be deeply missed by all who knew her. She is survived by her husband, Norman Segalowitz, her daughters Nina and Miri, her grandchildren Francis, Sierra, Nevaeh, and Ashleigh-Beth, her sisters Rose, Marlyn, and Thelma, and brothers Benny, Jed, Alex, and Rally. An open house will be held at Beth and Norman’s home at 4020 Madison Avenue, Montreal, in NDG, on Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10, from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. each day. 

In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to AMI-Quebec ( or to your preferred charity.

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