Reba Ann (Patterson) Benschoter, Ph.D., passed away at home on January 1, 2023. Her impact was felt by so many because of her generous spirit, quick wit, and the ability to call a situation as she saw it with candor and sometimes gentle humor.
She will be remembered as a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, as well as a friend, volunteer, and coworker. Reba was a master at finding the right dress pin to wear on any outfit for any occasion (including coffee on Thursdays), and her family members have fond memories of giving her additions to her collection. She will also be remembered for her determination, steadfast faith, and industry leadership in telemedicine.
Reba Patterson was born in Smithland, Iowa, to Glenn and Lorraine (Dunn) Patterson. The oldest of three children, she attended school at Saint Patrick’s Academy in Danbury. Reba graduated from Briar Cliff College and continued her education at Iowa State University. While working on her master’s degree on using television in education, Reba met her future husband, Leon G. “Benny” Benschoter. The pair worked at WOI-TV on the Iowa State University campus until Benny took a position at KTVO in Ottumwa, Iowa. It was not long before she and Benny married. Reba moved to Ottumwa, and their lives became intertwined both personally and professionally. Both of them proudly worked in the burgeoning television industry.
Following Benny to Omaha as he took a job at KMTV, Reba was looking for a job in psychology. Instead, she began her tenure at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in 1957 as an audiovisual specialist in the College of Medicine’s Nebraska Psychiatric Institute (NPI). She worked in several teaching and directing positions before becoming the director of the communications division of NPI in 1962. In 1970, the Board of Regents created the Biomedical Communications Division and named Reba the director for the entire UNMC campus. In 1978, after seven years as a part-time graduate student and many long commutes to Lincoln, Reba received her doctorate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. She became a professor emerita in 2000. Additionally, she was associate dean for the School of Allied Health Professions (SAHP) from 1985 to 1995.
Hallmarks of Reba’s career at UNMC include pioneering telemedicine (long before COVID-19) and increasing learning opportunities and services in rural parts of Nebraska. In 1964, Reba became project director on the creation and operation of the first U.S. two-way closed-circuit telemedicine system. Recently, the Nebraska television project has been heralded as one of the first successful demonstrations in the blooming field of “telemedicine.” Back in 1966, however, the term had not yet been coined. She was also active nationally in the development of these and other new technology applications, serving on councils, task forces, and government study committees. In 1991, Reba participated in the planning and implementation of NEB*SAT, a statewide satellite TV system for rural communication and education.
Reba and Benny were active members of the Health and Science Communications Association (HESCA) and she served as the organization’s president in 1977. In 1981, the organization recognized both Reba and Benny with its highest honor for their service and achievement.
As associate dean for the School of Allied Health Professions, Reba increased professional programs and student enrollment to address shortages in allied health professional services. A program that was dear to her was the extension of health services to rural Nebraska through the Rural Health Education Network (RHEN).
Benny and Reba made multiple trips to China through Project Hope to share their knowledge of instructional technology in medical teaching. Through the Friendship Force Program, Reba and Benny traveled extensively abroad and hosted foreign visitors to the United States. There were no strangers at the Benschoter dinner table and the family often was extended on holidays to include those who had no family to share with.
Early in life, Reba was an accomplished photographer as evidenced by a collection of albums detailing the growth of her family and travels. Her artistic talent was evident in the homes she and Benny created over the years. She often had the ideas and Benny brought them to life through his own talent as a craftsman. Reba and Benny also enjoyed collecting the artwork of up-and-coming artists.
Reba gave her talents to many efforts. She mentored, taught, or hired dozens of people into the profession of which she was a leader. After Reba’s retirement in 2000, she served as a member of the Executive Council for AARP Nebraska and Assistant Manager of the Nebraska AARP Information Center. She was active at the Stephen Center Homeless Shelter as a member of the Board of Directors and a long-time volunteer. As a 50-year member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, she served on the Parish Council and supported many other Parish projects and activities, and she was a longtime volunteer at Lauritzen Botanical Gardens.
Reba was preceded in death by Benny. She is survived by her children: Brooke Ann Benschoter of Des Moines, Mary Lorraine Miller (Kevin) of Omaha, Brian Benschoter (Maureen) of Austin, Texas, and Annmarie Rollag (John) of Omaha; grandchildren: Alyssa Mehalick (Andrew), Michael Miller, Henry Benschoter, Megan Miller, Max Mowitz (Austin), Maddy Miller, Claire Benschoter, Lucy Benschoter, Dan Rollag, Benjamin Mowitz, and George Benschoter; and two great-grandchildren, Addison and Jack Mehalick. She also leaves behind cousins, coworkers, and church family members who were treasured friends.
Visitation: Sunday, January 15, 2023, from 5 to 7 p.m. with a Vigil Service at 7 p.m., West Center Chapel.
Funeral services will be at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2110 South 32nd Avenue in Omaha, on Monday, January 16, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. with a luncheon following.
Interment will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers and food gifts, memorial donations can be made to the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Endowment or Briar Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa, directed to the Glenn and Lorraine Patterson Scholarship Fund.