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Jeanne-Marie Bergheim Wyld ’49

A picture of Jeanne-Marie Bergheim Wyld

Jeanne-Marie Bergheim Wyld ’49, May 30, 2009, in Urbana, Illinois. Following the death of her father, a physician and surgeon, Jeanne-Marie left her hometown of Hawley, Minnesota, with her mother and sister and came to Portland. She attended Reed on a scholarship, and earned a BA in chemistry. She went to Stanford University on a four-year fellowship from the Atomic Energy Commission, ultimately earning a PhD. She taught chemistry at Vassar College in 1954. The following year, she married Henry William Wyld Jr ’49. They later moved to Urbana, Illinois, where Bill was appointed to the physics department at the University of Illinois. In Urbana, Jeanne-Marie taught part-time at Parkland College and at the University of Illinois and joined the League of Women Voters. She was the first Democrat to be elected to the Urbana City Council and later ran for mayor of Urbana (1969). She was a key figure in the fight against the Oakley Dam, a massive federal project that would have flooded 1500 acres of parkland in order to provide water for nearby Decatur. As the emissary for the Save Allerton Park Committee, Jeanne-Marie flew to Washington, D.C., and made her case to officials in the Department of the Interior, the Treasury, Army Corps of Engineers, and Senator Everett Dirksen. This effort was ultimately successful: the Oakley Dam was scrapped and the park endures. A snare drummer in high school and in the Portland Junior Symphony, Jeanne-Marie enjoyed music throughout her life. In retirement, she cared for elderly family members in her home, traveled extensively with Bill, and was active in the Wesley United Methodist Church. Survivors include Bill, a daughter, grandson, and sister; a son and daughter predeceased her.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2010

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