April 23, 2020
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Barbara Hollenbeck Reitsma, former assistant director of Kenyon’s Math and Science Skills Center, died in hospice care on Oct. 27, 2019. She was 59 and a resident of Mount Vernon, Ohio.
A native of Western Pennsylvania, Reitsma was an honors chemistry graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois) with a doctorate in analytical chemistry from Iowa State University. She first came to Kenyon as an assistant professor of chemistry, serving from 1987 to 1993 before committing herself full time to raising and home-schooling her three children. In 2004, she returned to the College as assistant director of the Math and Science Skills Center, the position from which she retired in June 2019.
“Barb was a wonderful presence and source of great support for our students in the Math and Science Skills Center,” remembered President Sean Decatur. “But, most importantly in recent years, she was a model of courage for all of us in her battle with cancer.”
Reitsma had also been a research and teaching assistant during her graduate studies at Iowa State. In addition, she had conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Long involved in the Knox County community, Reitsma was presented with the Distinguished Service Award of the Mount Vernon Education Association in 2004 in recognition of her promotion of elementary school science curricula as the “Science Lady.” Another of her volunteer commitments was to Care Net Pregnancy Services (Knox Starting Point), where she held positions ranging from client statistics and newsletter coordinator to board member and treasurer. An active member of Mount Vernon’s First Presbyterian Church, she had served the congregation as a musician and as treasurer and in numerous other roles, including elementary Sunday School superintendent.
“I valued Barb’s mentorship when I first arrived at Kenyon and her friendship throughout the years,” said Professor of Physics Paula Turner about her longtime colleague. “She found no conflict between the science she practiced and the religion she lived. I always enjoyed our wide-ranging conversations about science, children, teaching, learning and life.”
Reitsma is survived by her husband of 37 years, Charles Reitsma; a daughter, Kimberly Reitsma Parsons; two sons, Douglas Reitsma and Wesley Reitsma; a brother, George Hollenbeck; and two sisters, Clara Hollenbeck McCabe and Donna Hollenbeck Cahill.
A celebration of Reitsma’s life will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Mount Vernon, 102 North Gay Street, on Saturday, Nov. 9, at 11 a.m. Memorial contributions may be made to Pelotonia in support of cancer research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.