Elizabeth DuRoss Liddy ’66, has drawn on her family’s business spirit to foster successes as company owner, inventor, and college dean.
For Elizabeth “Liz” DuRoss Liddy ’66, entrepreneurship is in the blood.
Growing up in Utica, N.Y., her father turned an old storefront into a thriving janitorial products business. Early on, without a car, he walked to and from work every day. All five of his children, including Liddy, worked in the business. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he recognized that “service,” not product, was the future. He grew the company to be a leader in the industry, going on to service clients that included the U.S. Olympics and GE Worldwide.
It was also her father’s influence that brought Liddy to Rosary Hill College, known today as Daemen College. A graduate of St.Francis DeSalle High School, Liddy had earned a Regents Scholarship and her father wanted her to use it at an all-women Catholic college in New York State.
“My father rented a car for us to drive to Buffalo to tour the college,” Liddy recalls. “I remember my dad, who was an avid reader, had an in-depth conversation about literature with Sister Georgia (Dunn) at the school. I loved literature and their exchange convinced me this was the college for me. I did not even look at another college.” Liddy remembers a rigorous curriculum, studying theology and philosophy at the college, and having to do a thesis in the English program in order to graduate. She also took a history course from Dr. Ned Cuddy, who is profiled with his family in the cover story of this issue of Daemen Today. She notes her college experience was a good starting point for what would lead to her work in natural language processing for online search engines like Google.
“I will always be grateful to the faculty at Daemen, especially Sister Georgia (Dunn) and others who encouraged and supported me in pursuit of a very full, rich education.”
— Elizabeth DuRoss Liddy
Liddy earned a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from Daemen and was married just a few months aer she graduated. Staying in New York State, the couple began a family and when the oldest of their three children was in kindergarten, Liddy volunteered at their school library, and that experience turned the page on a new chapter in her life.
Balancing family life with school, Liddy started a graduate program in library science at Syracuse University. While going to the university, she also worked part-time at school, public, and prison libraries. “It took me four years, but I earned my MLS one course at a time,” Liddy says. “I remember my father was my toughest critic on my dissertation.”
Upon earning a master’s degree, Liddy became a faculty librarian and taught at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse. She took a couple of graduate courses in statistics at Syracuse University, and, after achieving top grades, she entered the school’s doctoral program. She became the first part-time Ph.D. student in the School of Information Studies and went on to earn a doctoral degree in 1988.
While she was working on her degree and digging deep into research on natural language processing, the iSchool at Syracuse University hired Liddy as a faculty member. Her research work would grow to include 65 projects and she wrote more than 110 professional papers. She began as an assistant professor and eventually became a tenured professor. As she built her academic career, Liddy did not file away the family tradition of entrepreneurship.
Using her knowledge in information processing, Liddy founded TextWise, a semantic-based search engine company, and grew it to 50 employees. After five years she left the company, which still operates today in Fairport, N.Y, to establish the Center for Natural Language Processing in the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Her research has generated eight patents for technology, which have been applied to security, crisis management, business, banking, public health, government statistics, education, and other areas.
At Syracuse, Liddy was appointed interim dean of the School of Information Studies, and, ultimately, became de an of the scho ol. She later served as interim provost and vice chancellor at Syracuse University for a year before returning to her duties as dean. Following a career of more than 40 years – from the days of library card catalogs to Internet search engines today – Liddy retired as dean at Syracuse in May 2019.
Always active on many different boards, Liddy plans to continue her community ser vice in retirement, including volunteering with a Jail Ministr y Program in the Syracuse area. In fac t, she volunteers in the program with William Cuddy, brother of Dr. Cuddy, her former histor y profess or at Daemen. Liddy has four grandchildren, t hree of whom are i n North Carolina , where she w ill sp end the winter months.
Liddy concludes by offering some advice to current Daemen students. “Appreciate your college experience and focus on learning as much as you can,” she counsels. “I will always be grateful to the faculty at Daemen, especially Sister Georgia and others who encouraged and supported me in pursuit of a very full, rich education.”