In Memoriam

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Mary Jo Gillespie ’55

Born in Lewiston, Idaho, Mary Jo moved to Portland, Oregon, as a child. After graduating from Lincoln High School, she started at Reed,, where she majored in mathematics, and would remember Hum 110 with great joy.

“Reed gave me not only the pleasure of learning,” she said, “but also the first experience of truly being treated as an adult among adults.” At the beginning of her junior year, Mary Jo married classmate Robert Gillespie ’55. She finished her junior quals, but as money was short and Bob needed the student deferment, she put off her senior year and worked in the Reed business office during Bob’s senior year.

She finished her senior year in what was then San Diego State College (now University) and got a BS in mathematics in 1956. Early employment included two years as a programmer at Convair Astronomics in San Diego. In 1958, she and Bob moved to the Seattle area, where she devoted the next years of her life to raising her two sons, Peter and Scott. The family began making yearly treks to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in 1963. Always at home in the outdoors, Mary loved to backpack and hunt mushrooms.

In 1971, she returned to college life at the University of Washington and eventually earned an MS in biomathematics from the School of Public Health. During the last year of her studies she began working for the university as a biostatistician, ultimately becoming deputy director of the Coordinating Center for various NIH randomized clinical trials in cardiology and hematology. While at the Coordinating Center, Mary Jo co-authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed articles in science journals.

After retiring in 1990, she and Bob moved to the Pearl District in Portland to be near their sons, daughters-in-law and two grandchildren. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2003, and enjoyed traveling, dining out, and spending time with family and friends. Bob died in 2014 after a long struggle with Lewy body disease. In 2015, Mary Jo established the Gillespie Family Student Research Fund in memory of her husband and in honor of the family’s long relationship with Reed.

Last July, Mary Jo took her last Orcas Island trip with family and friends.

She spent her final days at home as she wanted to do, cared for by family, before succumbing to the ovarian cancer she had lived with for years. She is survived by her sons, Peter Barr-Gillespie and Scott Gillespie; daughters-in-law, Ann Barr-Gillespie and Nancy Gillespie; and grandchildren, Katie and Aidan Gillespie.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2016

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