With great sadness, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announces the passing of our founder, Betty Irene Moore, 95. Betty passed away peacefully this morning surrounded by her family.

In a conversation shortly after starting the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2001, Betty once reflected on the drive to give back to society: “I just feel that we have been very lucky in our lives,” she explained. “It’s conducive to wanting to help.”

Small-town roots

Always passionate about the improvability of the human condition, Betty Irene Moore was oriented to caretaking and giving back even as a young child. At the age of two, her father passed away and she and her mother joined Betty’s grandparents at their Los Gatos area fruit ranch, in pre-Silicon Valley days known as the “Valley of Hearts Delight.”

Betty Moore High School  senior photo 1945

Image: Betty Moore's high school senior photo, 1945

Betty attended Campbell Elementary School and Los Gatos High School, and outside school hours, she was attentive to the family and contributed to life on the ranch. “When I was young the area was completely tree-filled… I loved the smell of them in the spring. They were great flowering trees. In the summer, I would cut apricots. They’d bring all the fruit to the cutting shed, and we’d sit and do trays. And we had peaches. I helped can peaches with my grandmother.” When she did have rare windows of free time beyond her school work, ranch duties and piano practice, Betty honed her lifelong appreciation of the outdoors and of fishing off the pier in Santa Cruz and in the nearby streams.

Global perspective

Bright, inquisitive and with a special interest in foreign affairs, history and sociology, Betty excelled academically. She attended high school summer sessions for international studies at Mills College, and even covered the San Francisco United Nations Conference on International Organization for her high school. The spring 1945 convention produced the United Nations Charter, and afforded Betty, a senior, the opportunity to meet Nelson Rockefeller and California Governor Earl Warren, and witness history being made.

Always true to her small-town roots, she remembered her admiration then for these larger-than-life characters: “Oh my goodness, pinch me,” she thought. “I’m not sure I’m here.”  

Betty went on to earn a bachelor’s degree  in journalism from San Jose College. As a student there, Betty encountered another individual destined to become an eminent figure in history and a driving force in the modern era—this time her soulmate, Gordon Moore. Betty and Gordon met at a student retreat at the Asilomar Conference Center on the Monterey Peninsula. “It was a Y camp at that time, very rustic, and they had this great meeting hall with the glass that looks out over the ocean. And it was just beautiful,” she remembered.

The two were kindred spirits and fellow outdoor adventurers. They were both focused on their studies but made time to be together -- picnicking and fishing at sites throughout Northern California’s golden hills. In 1950, Gordon was admitted to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology. Not wanting to venture too far from Betty, he proposed. The two were married in short order at a small church in Santa Clara and set out after the wedding to settle as newlyweds in Pasadena.

Earning a “PhT” – Put Hubby Through

After a brief stint with Consolidated Engineering Corporation in advertising and public relations, Betty joined the Ford Foundation, financially supporting the household during Gordon’s graduate years and enjoying a front-row view during the opening acts of one of the country’s largest private foundations.

“Gosh. It was very small,” she once remembered. In those start-up years for Ford, she “was hired to set up and be in the project control… all the letters, all the requests, all the initiatives, everything came through that, and then were sent to the proper office.”

Gordon and Betty Moore smiling

Image: Gordon and Betty Moore

Over the following five decades, Betty supported Gordon’s career and anchored their family at home, raising two sons and imparting lessons in the value of hard work, decency and contributing to society. Active in the community, Betty served on the board of El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and volunteered at the Palo Alto Senior Day Care Center. She also served as a member of the Governing Board of Filoli, a historic house and garden near Woodside, CA that is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and served on its Fine Arts Committee.

Big changes

Gordon’s scientific and entrepreneurial success, especially in founding Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel Corporation, launched them into a financial stratosphere that neither of them could have anticipated, but they remained firmly grounded in small-town pragmatism and unassuming roots, with an abiding preference for authenticity and simplicity over extravagance.

“We used to go camping a lot. Rustic cabins, we’ll put it that way.” These family outings helped cultivate enduring feelings about the importance of the natural world, as well as a concern about the forces that threaten it.

“Saving those streams and trees, it’s just an automatic thing. You want this not only for our children, but for our children’s children.”

Betty and Gordon have witnessed Silicon Valley and the Bay Area grow up around them. “All the cities started running together,” Betty recalled once. “El Camino was not the sleepy little street it used to be.”

Philanthropic legacy

Born from this concern, from the couple’s belief in the importance of science, and from Betty’s own background as a caregiver and a patient who experienced preventable harm during a hospital stay, they established the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in 2000. It had been fifty years since Betty had helped the fledgling Ford Foundation take flight, and as their Intel stock soared, the Moores had become philanthropic giants, often giving anonymously and through their Moore Family Foundation with their two sons.

With the creation of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, they aimed, with a professionally staffed philanthropy, “to tackle large, important issues at a scale where it can achieve significant and measurable impacts. The foundation’s ability to take risks and make long-term and relatively large commitments should allow it to undertake challenges not accessible to many other organizations.  We seek durable change, not simply delaying consequences for a short time.” The foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements, and preservation of the special character of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Betty with BIMNI team, Moore Foundation

Image: Betty Moore (front center) with Moore Foundation staff of the Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative

Betty’s legacy will perhaps best be remembered for her contributions to improving patient care. It was Betty’s vision and leadership that led the foundation to approve its 10-year Betty Irene Moore Nursing Initiative in 2003, which improved nursing-related patient outcomes of adult acute care hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis was founded in 2009 with a $100 million commitment from the foundation. In 2014, Betty helped create the UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women's Hospital at Mission Bay through a $50 million gift. And in 2017, another $50 million gift funded the Packard Children’s Hospital’s Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center to deliver exceptional patient care and advance research that improves the health of children with heart disease.

An enduring legacy

Speaking at a conference in 2004, a UCSF nursing fellow remarked, “You, Mrs. Moore, are making such a tremendous impact with your generosity. Because of you, we’re going to have more faculty. Because of you, we’ll have more nursing students. Because of you, we’ll have more nurses at the bedside. Because of you, a child will go home and celebrate his birthday. And because of you, a dying child will have a nurse to hold his hand.”

UC Davis nursing graduates class custom caps We heart Betty

Nurses adorn their graduation caps with the letters WE (heart) BETTY at their graduation ceremony, UC Davis.

Help us spread the word.

If you know someone who is interested in this field or what we are doing at the foundation, pass it along.

Get Involved


Play Icon Play Icon

Remembering our co-founder Betty Irene Moore


Related Stories