Reba Ann (Patterson) Benschoter, Ph.D.

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.

 

11 Comments

  • Amy Powers Posted January 6, 2023 9:13 am

    Brian, what a loving tribute to your mother and your parents. What an accomplished life they led and it is clear that they touched so many. Thoughts and prayers are with you all~Amy

  • Belinda Barntsen Posted January 6, 2023 10:53 am

    Just heartbroken at the passing of my dear buddy. She was both a mom and very sweet friend to me. So lucky to have known her and to have worked with her on so many fundraising “adventures”. A role model for sure.
    I will miss her so much. Sweet Reba, Give Benny a big hug from me!
    💕❤️💕

  • Betty Anne Miller Posted January 7, 2023 10:10 pm

    My husband H. Jon Miller worked with Benny and I was at the UNHospital when Reba started her telemarketing
    career. We have been friends since 1965. I will them both. My prayers are with the family. It was always a joy to catch up on family news as they progressed thru their life.

  • Emily McElroy Posted January 8, 2023 10:09 am

    Over the last four years, I began meeting with Reba and Benny over a project at UNMC. How I looked forward to those conversations! Reba’s sense of humor, intelligence, drive, and care for others was obvious from the first minute. Along with many others, she was an inspiration to me. That inspiration will carry me throughout my career. My sincerest sympathies for her family.

  • Marg Beeson Posted January 8, 2023 12:46 pm

    I knew Reba thru work.at the Norfolk State Hospital and the closed circuit tv connection between NSH and NPI. It was in the late 60’s and the word that comes to mind is compassion.

  • Rosalee C. Yeaworth Posted January 8, 2023 8:42 pm

    I moved to Nebraska in 1979 to become Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, a position which I held for 15 years. One of the things that impressed me was that we had two-way television for classes and meetings between our Omaha and Lincoln Divisions. This had all been set up and kept operational by Reba. Later during my time as dean, we added the West Nebraska Division in Scottsbluff and the Kearney Division. Reba and I made trips together to get two-way television and other connections set up. Reba and Benny became good friends with me and my husband (now deceased). I miss them both, but since my experiences involved working more closely with Reba, I shall really miss her. I know how important her family was to her, so I send them my condolemces

  • Rosalee Yeaworth Posted January 8, 2023 9:02 pm

    One of the things which impressed me before I moved to Omaha to become Dean of the UNMC College of Nursing was there were two Divisions, one in Omaha and one in Lincoln connected by two-way television for classes and meetings. When we added the Divisions in Scottsbluff and Kearney the same connections were set up–all accomplished by Reba and her telecommunications abilities. She became a close professional friend and she and Benny became personal friends with me and my husband. As we got older and both our husbands died, we have not seen as much of each other, but I always considered her a friend and I shall really miss her.

  • Tom O’Connor Posted January 9, 2023 8:52 am

    Reba was a pioneer in telecommunications at UNMC and truly an historic figure at the medical center. She left a legacy that will never be forgotten. What an awesome lady! My condolences to her great family – we lost one of the best!

  • Jim McKernan Posted January 11, 2023 9:55 am

    Condolences to Brian and family.

  • Kathie Garabrandt Posted January 11, 2023 10:47 am

    Reba was such a special neighbor and friend to us over the last 25 years as well as an amazing member of our parish at Our Lady of Lourdes. She had such a kind spirit and great wit about her, she was so generous without recognition and will be so missed. Give Benny a hug for us, I am sure he is so glad to see you!

  • Toni Posted January 14, 2023 7:35 pm

    I am so sorry to. See Reba’s passing. I always loved her. I met her at OLL years ago. May she rest in Peace.

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