Dr. Elizabeth B. Miller (Rawlins)


Dr. Elizabeth B. Miller (Rawlins) was born on Nov. 25, 1927, and died at the age of 96 on Feb. 3, 2024. Elizabeth (“Betty”) passed away at her home in Oak Bluffs peacefully, with her children, Paul (Teresa) and Pattie by her side. 

Betty was born to Archibald and Nellie Miller. She was the second youngest of five children. Betty survived them all. Betty attended the Cambridge public schools, and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in 1944. After high school, she attended Salem State Teachers College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 1950. Betty then became an elementary school teacher, teaching in public and private schools around Massachusetts, in both urban and suburban communities. From 1953 to 1954, Betty taught at Narimasu Elementary School in Tokyo, Japan. Betty loved to share how the love of her life, Keith Rawlins, was waiting to marry her upon her return. Keith and Betty were married on August 27, 1954, and remained married for 59 years until Keith’s passing on June 14, 2013. 

After earning her master’s degree in urban education from Simmons College in 1967, Betty left elementary school teaching and began working at Simmons. From 1979 to 1992, Betty served as the associate dean of the human services program; she became both a professor of education and received her Ed.D. degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the same year. For 10 years, she served as chairperson of the Salem State College board of trustees; she also served as a board member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, and a member of the Simmons College Corporation. Betty also served as president of the Massachusetts Association of Mental Health; and between 1982 and 1988, she served on the Education Commission. 

During her long career at Simmons, Betty made a significant impact in quite a few capacities. She often addressed racially sensitive issues, and had a special place in her heart mentoring students of color, who were the minority at Simmons. Clearly it was special, as many of them still regularly called and visited with their beloved “Dean Rawlins” after all these years.

Betty made quite the name for herself in the education field, which she never boasted about. She was always a very private person, but her husband Keith never failed to celebrate each and every accomplishment she added to her accolades. Some of these accomplishments are as follows: the establishment of the Elizabeth B. Rawlins Scholarship Fund at Simmons, the Elizabeth B. Rawlins ’67GS Endowed Scholarship, and the Salem State College Elizabeth Rawlins Oratorical Contest, which are all testaments to her leadership and contributions to higher education in Massachusetts, and the respect she earned in the process. 

After her retirement in 1992, Betty and Keith retired full-time to their special place in Oak Bluffs, where they had summered since 1965. Betty wasn’t finished serving, though! She served on a few boards on the Vineyard, and was on the advisory council to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the vice president of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as well as many years on the board for Havenside Housing Corporation in Vineyard Haven. Betty was elated to be part of the Cambridge Black Trailblazers, the history makers, and she can be seen recognized for her accomplishments on video in Washington, D.C., at the African American History Museum. 

Betty had a great love for her family and friends, and is survived by her son, Paul H. Rawlins (wife Teresa); daughter, Pattie E. Rawlins; two grandchildren, Sharisse Scott-Rawlins and Keith Scott-Rawlins; and a host of other relatives and friends. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to Simmons University, 300 Fenway, Boston, MA 02115, toward the Elizabeth B. Rawlins ’67GS Endowed Scholarships for minority students. Donations could also be made in her name to Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard, 79 Beach Road, Suite 28, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568; or to Salem State University, 352 Lafayette St., Salem, MA 01970, toward the Elizabeth B. Rawlins Oratory Award.

The wake, arranged by Spears Funeral Home, will take place at noon on Sunday, Feb. 25, and the funeral will be held at 1 pm at Simmons University. The service being held on Sunday, when no burials take place, means the family will be meeting on Monday, Feb. 26, at 11 am at Spears Funeral Home (124 Western Ave., Cambridge) to go to the burial site at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Family and close friends are invited to join. 

Services will be presided over by the Very Rev. John P. Streit Jr., dean emeritus of the Church of St. Paul; evangelist Cicily Shaw of the Greater Life Baptist Church in Dorchester (great-niece to Betty); and the Rev. Steven Harding of Grace Church in Vineyard Haven.

The family of Dr. Elizabeth B. Rawlins wishes to thank all of you for your outpouring of love, support and prayers. The Rawlins also want to extend their greatest gratitude to RN Jessica Walsh and the staff at Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard.

Due to the extra-large number of people in attendance, the repast can only be for the people already informed.



  1. Thank you Jessica. We truly appreciate all your help and support and efforts caring for our mom and navigating Paul and me through this very difficult and challenging time.

  2. I was blessed to know Betty on so many levels. As a professor at Salem State University when she was Chair of the Board of Trustees, later as a member of the MV Higher Education Council, and most importantly, as her friend here on the Island. I will remember Betty for her kindness, brilliance, and elegance.

  3. I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Dr. Rawlins recently. We (MVTV, MVRHS & ASALH MV) collaborated for the Oral History project highlighting Dr. Rawlins life and achievements.
    It was truly a pleasure meeting her, getting to know her and documenting her sweet spirit and motivating energy. I hope you will watch and enjoy:

    Or visit Asalh Martha’s Vineyard on YouTube to view.

    My deepest condolences to the family and friends. Dr. Rawlins will be missed greatly.

  4. My condolences to the Rawlins-Miller family. Betty served on and added significant value to the board of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services through the early 2000’s. Her experience in higher education, social welfare services combined with her unshakeable focus on community needs and grounded judgement added unique insight to board decisions. Betty always had kind words a smile, and good humor to share in our meetings. Her presence is missed.

  5. I had the best of both worlds. Having attended and graduating from Simmons University (formerly, Simmons College), I had MY Aunt Betty AND Dean Rawlins! So glad to have attended Simmons College when she was there!

Comments are closed.