Obituary and Condolences

Elizabeth "Betsy" D. Riesz

January 21, 1937 January 3, 2019
Elizabeth "Betsy" D. Riesz
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Obituary for Elizabeth "Betsy" D. Riesz

Elizabeth Dunkman Riesz (“Betsy”), 81, of Iowa City, died Thursday, January 3, 2019 at Oaknoll Retirement Residence of a glioblastoma. A Memorial Service will be held at 1:30 PM, Saturday, February 2, 2019 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Iowa City. Cremains will be interred at Third Presbyterian Church, Rochester, NY.

Betsy was born on January 21, 1937 in Rochester, NY, the daughter of William Edward Dunkman and Cornelia Darke Engle Dunkman. She attended elementary school in Rochester, Arlington, VA and White Plains, NY and graduated from Brighton High School in Rochester. Betsy graduated with a major in American Studies from Smith College in 1959, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She took a one year leave from college to accompany her family to Sendai, Japan, where her father was a Fulbright Professor at Tohoku University. At Harvard Graduate School of Education, she earned a master’s degree (1960) and at The University of Iowa she obtained a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology (1981).

On December 28, 1968, she married Peter C. Riesz of Summit, NJ, whom she met in Rochester. They lived in Iowa City where Peter was Professor of Marketing in the Tippie College of Business, the University of Iowa. Betsy and Peter recognized their 50th wedding anniversary just days before her death.

Professionally Betsy was engaged in a variety of education positions, first as a 6th grade teacher in the Newton, Massachusetts Public Schools, and then as a social studies curriculum writer for Newton on a Ford Foundation grant. After moving to Iowa City in 1969, she continued social studies development with an emphasis on multi-ethnic, multi-cultural programs in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. After earning the Ph.D., she became interested in women’s decision making and school program evaluation. For 10 years she directed a research and intervention project in Cedar Rapids to encourage high school girls and minority students to continue taking mathematics and science courses.

Subsequently, for a decade before retirement in 2006, she coordinated the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) undergraduate peer mentoring program at the University of Iowa.
Betsy and Peter’s daughter, Sarah, has Down syndrome. Her birth in 1972 was at a time when services for individuals with disabilities were beginning to evolve. In the decades following the 1970s Federal legislation mandated free public education, respite care, supported employment and supported living. Betsy worked with the Arc of Johnson County and the Iowa City Community School District to implement these services for children and adults with disabilities.

As a result of the year in Japan, Betsy continued a life-long interest in Japan. Building on that interest, Betsy belonged to the International Women’s Club from 1969 to the present. She and Peter convened a monthly Japan-America Discussion Group in their home, 1992-2002. Betsy traveled twice to Japan to give lectures about services in the United States for individuals with disabilities. She continued her connections with individuals from Japan, both from 1956 as well as those who had lived in Iowa City as visiting scholars.

In 2008, Smith College recognized Betsy’s 25 years of service as an Iowa City recruitment representative for the college by awarding her the Alumnae Admission Coordinator of the Year Award.

She was a member of the NN Book Club and the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, where she served as an elder. She enjoyed gardening, reading, music and travel.
Betsy was the author of First Years of a Down Syndrome Child (1978, Seattle: Special Child Publications). It was translated (with updates) into Japanese by Sachiko and Tokumitsu Shirai as Sarah who has Down Syndrome (1996, Tokyo: Seishin Shobo, Ltd.). She authored a cookbook based on recipes developed for Sarah (Lets Cook! Healthy Recipes for Independent Living (2010, Mankato, MN: Appletree Press). She also authored articles related to her professional work. Much of her work is archived at The University of Iowa Libraries.

Betsy is survived by her husband, Peter C. Riesz of Iowa City; daughter, Sarah K. Riesz of Iowa City; brother, W. Bruce Dunkman, M.D. (Karen) of Radnor, PA; two nephews, W. Jonathan Dunkman, M.D. (Samantha Schilling, M.D.) of Chapel Hill, NC, and Andrew A. Dunkman, M.D. of Rochester, NY; two great nephews, William and Henry Dunkman; a great niece, Emily Dunkman and many extended family members.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Reach for Your Potential or The Oaknoll Foundation, all of Iowa City.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Elizabeth "Betsy" D. Riesz, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





1:30 PM 2/2/2019 1:30:00 PM
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

140 Gathering Place Lane
Iowa City, IA 52246

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
140 Gathering Place Lane Iowa City 52246 IA
United States

Memorial Contribution

Reach for Your Potential

1705 S. 1st Avenue, Suite I
Iowa City, IA 52240

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

140 Gathering Place Lane
Iowa City, IA 52246

Oaknoll Foundation

1 Oaknoll Court
Iowa City, IA 52246

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